Friday, December 26, 2014

A Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This review is also published at Amazon, with a version at Goodreads.
Diclaimer: I have not read any other of Mitchell's work. I included no details of the story, hoping not to spoil any readers' enjoyment.
Three stars, if you like stars.
The title, The Bone Clocks, never made sense to me, though the phrase, the bone clocks, appears twice that I recall, referring to faces, elderly ones in particular. While Mr. Mitchell has written a master class in 1980's British dialect, slang and music tastes (for teens, anyway), about half of the references went over my head, and a few had even been missed by my dictionary. I read in hardcover, so didn't have Kindle's look-up-the-word feature.

I found his descriptions full to overflowing. I liked them very well, except they went on too long for me.

The book is written in first person, using six (if memory serves) different viewpoint characters. No problem there, and all their stories were wrapped up at the end, as they should be. However, Mitchell didn't solve the classic first person problem for the reader: who is this person? until too many words or pages had gone by. Again, this made me uncomfortable, but once settled, he stayed firmly with the character, and the sections were of suitable length.

The plot, or story problem, connecting the disparate sections does appear in the opening chapters. However, it is well disguised, and makes infrequent, seemingly random appearances until approximately the last quarter of the book. Until then, I had the frequent feeling of not knowing why these people were inhabiting my mind, even temporarily. Mitchell does clear it all up in relatively short order, once he gets to it. The denouement is long, but no less heart-rending for it.

You might be excused for wondering why I finished the book if I had the above complaints. The characters drew me in from the first, and brought me back, worrying about what would happen next.

So four plus stars for the characters and their situations, and two stars for not understanding many of the references, the excess (to me) descriptions, the dearth of story line, and my inability to quickly discern the viewpoint character. I hasten to add that these are, like as not, my own difficulty.

I can recommend The Bone Clocks for Mitchell's characterizations, and the story, once it fully begins. The book was a gift.
Find The Bone Clocks here.

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