Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Dazzling Supernatural Epic from the Cloud Atlas Creator; THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell (Sceptre, PS20)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Dazzling Supernatural Epic from the Cloud Atlas Creator; THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell (Sceptre, PS20)

Article excerpt

Byline: JEROME BOYD MAUNSELL

THE superbly talented British author David Mitchell's sixth novel begins with a freewheeling sequence set in the summer of 1984 told by a 15-year-old, running away from home after her mum slaps her for going out the night before with her boyfriend. Holly Sykes, it seems, has had enough of life in The Captain Marlow, the family-run pub in Gravesend where she has grown up, and so off she heads towards the Kent marshes with her duffel bag, "PS13.85 saved in notes and coins", and a further PS80 in the TSB.

We know, of course, that Holly is heading for trouble. She sleeps in a church and gets a job as a fruitpicker on the Isle of Sheppey. But a chance encounter with a woman fishing by the Thames does most to seal her fate -- although it takes several hundred closely written pages for us to see how.

Opening in a mode of slangy 1980snostalgic comic realism, The Bone Clocks goes on, in six sections, each jumping a decade or so and changing narrators, to chart Holly's life until her seventies in 2043, in a world running out of oil.

Small moments of foresight or precognition, visitations and voices Holly heard as a child, all point to something supernatural in her experience. On the surface, her life is relatively normal.

She falls for an old friend who becomes a war correspondent in Iraq, becomes a mother and writes a best-selling "spiritual memoir" about her paranormal visions. She is diagnosed with, and survives, cancer. In a somewhat tangential comic side-plot, she also befriends Crispin Hershey, a raddled, reviewer-loathing novelist, the narrator of a hilariously digressive middle section of the book.

Yet, by the close, we have also been plunged into a parallel world of fullblown fantasy, in which Holly has unwittingly offered "asylum" to a centuries-old transmigrating soul who is engaged, with several other "Horologists", in a war against never-ageing "Anchorites". …

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