Book Club: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
It's book club time again! This last month my book club read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I loved it... and I thought that it was kind of poorly structured.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. I will admit, it's been a while since I've felt that inner pull to read a story, and I was actually starting to worry that I didn't really like reading anymore. This was actually kind of terrifying because I have always been a person who loves reading and what do you do when all of a sudden you don't like something anymore??? Panic, most likely.
Luckily, the panic has subsided. I just had a bad run and everything is okay again. I know this because I did not want to put The Bone Clocks down. The narration style really grabbed me and the characters were incredibly real and interesting. It was also sort of like one of those epics that spans generations of history, except it goes from the 80's into the future.
Oh, and you do not want to live in this future. It's not quite a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but it is exactly where we are/could be headed. Oil runs out, electricity becomes scarce, the internet is spotty at best, and guess what? That does not inspire humanity to put its best foot forward. But as you read it you will nod your head in terror that this is what your old age will probably look like.
So I loved it, but...
The story itself centres mainly around Holly Sykes, who is the first character we meet. However, the structure of the whole thing is so bizarre (here's where I start talking about the things that didn't work so well) that we don't spend that much time with her.
We start off meeting her as a teenager. She has a few strange and supernatural occurrences that are (mostly) wiped from her memory and then we jump to another character: Hugo Lamb. Hugo Lamb is a dick. I don't normally use words like that all willy-nilly, so take my word for it, it's true. He is, of course, still fascinating. He also has some teeny-tiny supernatural experiences (little tiny drops in the bucket of fantasy, which is, of course, what we all thought we were reading when we picked up the book).
The character jump, by the way, is completely jarring and unexplained. The whole thing is written as a first person narrative, and all of a sudden that first person is a new person and you just have to figure out from context who this new character is. It's like starting a whole new story in the middle of a story.
Eventually Hugo meets Holly, but they don't have a life-changing plot twist. This happens with a couple of other characters, until we loop back around to Holly.
Even though the story only actually spans about 70 years, it feels like one of these sweeping epics because it brings so many different characters into the fray and delves right into their worlds. This could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing. I'm actually not sure.
David Mitchell did that thing I love where he didn't really explain the world right off the bat - you just kind of figure stuff our as you go, but then he dumps a ton of exposition in the middle of the book.
The only reason that the incredibly jarring jumps from character to character don't ruin the story is because each character is so interesting. Holly is one of those smart, tough-as-nails types of women who will just survive forever. Sure, she's a bit of a sullen teenager at the beginning, but I'm pretty sure all smart, tough-as-nails, survivor-y types are.
Her life, and those of the rest of her characters, are so regular and relatable, and that is what I think gives the draw to the story. Even Hugo Lamb (the aforementioned human piece of male genitalia) who is completely unlikable as a person goes through these every day experiences that allow us an in to seeing the world as he does.