The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 1

Friday, January 20, 2017

This post assumes that you have read the first half of the book.

A Hot Spell: 1984 – Holly Sykes
The Bone Clocks kicks off with Holly Sykes. She’s a British teenager, typically rebellious and in love for the first time. Her story is relatable, even if she’s a bit annoying at first (aren’t we all annoying at that age?).

I loved Holly section. Mitchell made her feel immediately accessible and real. She feels like any teenager you might know, someone young, dealing with heartbreak for the first time. That's crucial because just as you get comfortable in her story, things get weird. We understand her and relate to her and so when the situation turns to the fantastical we can imagine how strange the scenario would be through her eyes. Her section reminded me a little bit of The Dark Is Rising series.

Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume: 1991 – Hugo Lamb

Next in line is a devious university student. Hugo’s lack of a moral code and creativity in his scheming was fascinating. He was a character who you aren't exactly rooting for, but you secretly enjoy seeing what he can get away with. He’s so charismatic, you can see how others trust him and fall under his spell. It was strange, almost a bit out of character, to see him actually care about something when he met Holly. In every scene of his, I just kept thinking, what’s his angle? He always thought through every situation to find out exactly how it would benefit him. So every time he interacted with someone, I was just waiting to see what his true motivation was.

The Wedding Bash: 2004 – Ed Brubeck

Ed is a war journalist working in Baghdad. It’s the same Ed from Holly’s section and now they have a daughter together and he’s home for a short trip for Holly’s sister’s wedding on the Brighton pier. When his daughter Aoife went missing my entire body was anxious. I was terrified for Ed and Holly, and the entire Sykes family, which had already been through this with Jacko.

I loved Ed’s conversation on the pier with Immaculée Constantin. She's so deliciously evil. I also loved the conversation with Holly's great aunt Eilísh. Her experience with Jacko shed so much light on the story. The flashbacks to Ed's time in Baghdad lost me for a minute because it was so different from the rest of the book, but just like the other switches in narrative, after a bit it clicked for me.

A Few Thoughts:

Switching gears between each story was hard. I remember feeling the same way when reading Cloud Atlas. Each section was so different, at first there felt like there was no flow between them. But soon you fall into a new rhythm and somehow it works. By the time I finished the third section it was obvious that Holly was the thread tying all the stories together. I loved that we were able to see her at different stages throughout her life. It reminded me of Kitchens of the Great Midwest in the sense that it is one character’s story, but told through the eyes of so many people around her.

One of the most fascinating things about this book is that it's mainly about normal people, with everyday problems, except there's also a supernatural element threaded through the entire book. The very fact that the characters are so relatable and human makes the supernatural element so readable. Because you were seeing it through their eyes and their incredulity matches your own. I loved the way that was handled.
It is not an easy book to read. It is complicated and at times it’s hard to follow. But for me, so far, the stumbling blocks have been more than worth it. I’m intrigued by the whole world Mitchell has created. Each character adds intricate layers to the story. It's beautifully written. I feel like each section has its own unique tone and cadence. I certainly don’t understand the whole picture yet, but I trust that we’ll get there.

“When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it.”

"Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat, and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields, and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.”

“While the wealthy are no more likely to be born stupid than the poor, a wealthy upbringing compounds stupidity while a hardscrabble childhood dilutes it, if only for Darwinian reasons."

"If an atrocity isn't written about, it stops existing when the last witnesses die."

“Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose.”


Anonymous said...

I'm almost done with the Ed part! He's just now talking to the Great Aunt about Jacko so I will be back very soon to weigh in.

Too Fond said...

I had a hard time with the different sections because I would get invested in the "main" character only to have them disappear or be relegated to a minor role in the next section. Having finished it, I feel like I need to do a reread to fully appreciate each section of its own without that lingering frustration. Having said that, though, the way Mitchell sucks you into a character's story and the detail he uses is just amazing to me. He has a real talent for getting you immersed in a world quickly.

I had a different reaction to the supernatural aspects of the story, but I'll save that until everyone has finished... :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - 1015, whoa.

Too Fond - I completely agree about Mitchell immersing you in each new world. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the supernatural part. I'm in the fifth section right now and I keep going back and rereading earlier scenes that are referenced. A full reread would definitely help!

Anonymous said...

Wait, what? What's this mean "1015" - what am I missing?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - Are you still in Ed's section?

Anonymous said...

OK! I get it now. ;P
I finished the Ed section today. I know, I said I would finish it up sooner, but I didn't. It's hard to juggle two fiction books at once. I think I will start Crispin's section after I finish Version Control (which is long, too! but I promised it to a friend so must rush through)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - Truly, there's no hurry! I'll post my thoughts when I finish and you can share your's whenever you're done.

Laurie C said...

I'm glad you quoted those passages! I lost my notes and highlights because I was using a library ebook to read from. Both you and Care refer to the great-aunt, so I need to go back and see what that's about, because I've forgotten. There are so many threads to the stories and so many stories! I finally posted my mid-readalong thoughts today, as we're having a snow day and I feel like my time is infinite! Until we have to start shoveling, at least...:D

Laurie C said...

Forgot to mention that I haven't thought of The Dark Is Rising sequence in some years, but I see why you were reminded of them! The paranormal elements are so subtly blended with reality that you barely have to suspend disbelief as you're reading.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Laurie C. - Mitchell really did an incredible job incorporating the supernatural elements. I'm so caught up in the characters' lives that I barely even blink when one of those things pop up.

Anonymous said...

FYI - I am just now into the last section (I think? The one where Esther Little sends the package.) The audiobook says I have 7 hours remaining. I just might pull an all-nighter to finish the print book because I'm getting impatient to have this thing done! But that's because life is nuts in many ways and impatience is in my biorhythms at the moment. ;)
Oh - I tweeted a few quotes to see if anyone was on Twitter... fyi. Litsy is a great place, too. You saw that my coworker has joined us? She's doing the audiobook, too and is catching up to me which is why I need to get busier with it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - Sounds like you're in section 5, you have one more after that. I love that your coworker joined! My best friend ended up reading it too.

Jeanne said...

I really loved the way the chapters switch points of view. This is what I said about it in my (Jan. 2015) review of the book: "Perhaps David Mitchell’s novel The Bone Clocks doesn’t have a table of contents because readers are being invited to plunge into this world without a guide, submerging themselves until they’re used to the water and then looking around to see what the shore they’ve left looks like from this new perspective. Even the kenning of the title—that people are “bone clocks” for immortal beings who move among us—is an attempt to broaden our usual perspective. The extraordinary life of the character Holly Sykes ties the narrative together, and it’s hard even for a person as special and long-lived as she is to see how our actions have consequences for not only our own children but our grandchildren and on down the line—something for which we need a God’s-eye view, or at least the view of an immortal, like Marinus, one of the narrators of this novel."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - I love seeing your thoughts on the book! You are completely right, this book feels like an immersive experience. I was so sucked into the story that each new character added a layer of depth and took me deeper down the rabbit hole.