Magic for Literature Lovers

Article by Augusta

THE BONE CLOCKS, David Mitchell’s latest tour de force, opens with the narrator, Holly Sykes, experiencing the typical self-involved agonies of being a teenager: fighting with her mother, discovering her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and running away from home. But on her flight away from her hometown, she has some strange interactions--most significantly, an intense fantastical daymare followed by a forced blanking of her memory for a period of time. Soon, Holly faces another dilemma, although one less typical within the teenage experience: the disappearance of Jacko, her beloved and eccentric younger brother, who had gifted her a labyrinth before she ran away from home, insisting she memorize it in case she ever needed to use it. Before the reader can deduce what has happened to Jacko, the novel vaults several years into the future, with a new narrator and new environment, both seemingly unrelated to the previous pages.

However, in typical Mitchell style, these disparate narratives (which eventually total six) are interconnected, with Holly providing continuity and critical linkage between the sections. For instance, remember Holly’s strange interactions--the daymare and blank memory--from the first section? They wind up priming the reader for later paranormal occurrences, which happen with greater frequency as the novel approaches an epic climactic battle between two opposing factions of immortal souls: the Horologists and the Anchorites. Mitchell is known for mixing fantasy and reality, which, when combined with his colorful characters, makes for an enjoyable read. His new book proves ambitious in scope and rich in detail, managing to find a perfect balance between plotty page-turner, humor, and deep philosophical inquiry. With its magical elements and its sensitive coming-of-age story, anchored by the unforgettable Holly Sykes, THE BONE CLOCKS feels like an adult version of Harry Potter.

Tickets for David Mitchell's September 21 Inprint reading at the Wortham Center are on sale now.

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