The Bone Clocks


David Mitchell

First Sentence:     I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolatey eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going mental and, God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.

Back of the book:

One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .

The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.

Quotes from the book:

“What if… what if Heaven is real, but only in moments? Like a glass of water on a hot day when you’re dying of thirst, or when someone’s nice to you for no reason, or… Mam’s pancakes with Toblerone sauce; Dad dashing up from the bar just to tell me, ‘Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’; or Jacko and Sharon singing ‘For She’s A Squishy Marshmallow’ instead of ‘For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow’ every single birthday and wetting themselves even though it’s not at all funny; and Brendan giving his old record player to me instead of one of his mates. ‘S’pose Heaven’s not like a painting that’s just hanging there for ever, but more like… Like the best song anyone ever wrote, but a song you only catch in snatches, while you’re alive, from passing cars, or… upstairs windows when you’re lost…”

‘For the Vinny Costellos of the world, love is bullshit they murmur into your ear to get sex. For girls – me, anyway – sex is what you do on page one to get to the love that’s later on in the book.’

When I look at Brigadier Reginald Philby, I’m looking down time’s telescope at myself.

‘She’s very watchable, like the motionless bass player in a hyperactive rock band.’

Drop, drop, drop, go the pennies. Or dollars. Like the best songs, you can’t see the next line coming, but once it’s sung, how else could it have gone?

‘[…] makes me afraid Aoife’s childhood’s a book I’m flicking through instead of reading properly.’

My bones turn to warm Blu-Tack.

‘Civilisation’s like the economy, or Tinkerbell: if people stop believing it’s real, it dies.’

If you’re writing fiction or poetry in a European language, that pen in your hand was, once upon a time, a goose quill held by an Icelander. Like it or not, know it or not, it doesn’t matter. If you seek to represent the beauty, truth and pain of the world in prose, if you seek to deepen character via dialogue and action, if you seek to unite the personal, the past  and the political in fiction, then you’re in pursuit of the same aims sought by the authors of the Icelandic scripts, right here, seven, eight, nine hundred years ago.

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Last Sentence:     For one voyage to begin, another voyage must come to an end, sort of.