2.5-stars, really. but i can't bring myself to roundup to 3-stars (liked it) because, well, it was only okay. sorry! :/
(and please don't come and hate2.5-stars, really. but i can't bring myself to roundup to 3-stars (liked it) because, well, it was only okay. sorry! :/
(and please don't come and hate on me, david mitchell fans. i really, really like the man.)
so, here's the thing: david mitchell, the man, is someone i like so much. he smart, he's creative, he's thoughtful, and he seems like a kind bloke. david mitchell's writing i like not so much. the bone clocks is my third outing with mitchell (the others being The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas), and this is the third time i have wished i liked a novel so much more than i did.
i have this group of writers i like as people, but can't gel with their writing. mitchell is now solidly in this camp for me. so while i will continue to follow his career and be, generally, impressed by him i probably won't read any more of his stuff. though never say never, right?
not quite halfway through the bone clocks (crispin hershey's bit) there's this passage:
... what they'll read about my comeback novel is: "So why is Echo Must Die such a decomposing hog? One: Hershey is so bent on avoiding cliché that each sentence is as tortured as an American whistleblower. Two: The fantasy subplot clashes so violently with the book's State of the World pretensions, I cannot bear to look. Three: What surer sign is there that the creative aquifers are dry than a writer creating a writer-character?"
while i wouldn't go so far as to call the bone clocks 'decomposing hog' (heh!), the rest of the quote screamed out at me so loudly, it was hard to ignore. was this self-awareness poking through? who knows?
to my reckoning, there are four potentially awesome novels within the bone clocks:
* holly sykes (and ed brubeck) * hugo lamb * crispin hershey * horology, the atemporals, and temporals
each in their own way had so much potential but, for me, as a whole it was just a hot mess. i found it affected. in the first part, i wasn't buying holly's 'voice', it seemed off and wrong and i wasn't convinced by it. as she aged, it got better for me, but by the later stages of the novel i just found all the voices were not distinct enough. i kept wanting to give up on the read... but i kept going because it's david mitchell, you know? (that and because i am stubborn, it's really rare for me to quite on any book. what if the turning point is on the next page? or the page after that? and i give up just a bit too soon??)
i just feel like mitchell was trying to do too much here and it didn't weave together seamlessly. by the time he introduced the issue of racism late in the story, i was so tired. i found it interesting, but man - how many things need to go into a story? and this is another thing - i like the themes and ideas mitchell plays with. he is clearly fascinated by connections and morality in our world and these are very noble ideas to pursue in writing. so that, unfortunately, just adds to my feelings of bummed-ness in not loving mitchell's writing more.
on the plus side, this particular edition: The Bone Clocks: A Novel is beautiful. the cover design is gorgeous, and the quality of the pages is fabulous. it's a weighty tome, though. wow. i did not weigh it, but i have been joking that it clocks in at about 7lbs. so plan your book prop accordingly.
edited to add:
i totally meant to include this aside with my review:
KLEINBURG, ONTARIO?! what the hell, david mitchell?? the fact you used kleinburg, ontario as a minor setting totally threw me for a loop and i found it so distracting!! why? WHY??
for those who don't know: kleinburg is, literally, a one-intersection small town. at the south end, it does have the wonderful mcmichael art gallery - which is an amazing place to visit ,and totally worth an outing if you are in the toronto area. kleinburg also used to have the wonderful Pierre Berton (and i will take any opportunity to share how to roll a joint, with pierre berton). so... was mitchell lucky enough to meet berton before he died? was mitchell at an event at the mcmichael and it just stuck with him? years and years ago, i frequented kleinburg - there was an awesome little shop that had fantastic ice cream. but it's long gone. so mitchell could not have been enticed by the ice cream. so, again i ask, WHY? kleinburg. harrumph. (hahaha!!!)...more
is it too easy to call a book titled delicious! 'sweet'? probably, but i'm going to do it anyway. this is a sweet debut novel from nonfiction/memoir ais it too easy to call a book titled delicious! 'sweet'? probably, but i'm going to do it anyway. this is a sweet debut novel from nonfiction/memoir ace ruth reichl. i get really nervous when people, writers, move from nonfiction over to fiction, but i am such a fan of reichl's that it was hard to resist giving her novel a try. it's a nice book. it has some problems and it's a bit light...some would call it 'chick lit', i guess - but i enjoyed reading this story despite my own misgivings. in the acknowledgments, reichl thanks Ann Patchett !!!woot!!!), so this thrilled me. hey - if you are writing your first novel and you need advice and can call on someone like ann patchett, that's a good call to make. i love patchett and to think she had any part in making this a better book is a good thing.
so, i am not a foodie (stupid word). in fact, my palate is an embarrassment to palates the world over. i am probably a chef's worst nightmare. between being a supertaster (which while an awesome thing to be because the word 'super' is right in it, wreaks havoc with how things taste), and having a few (like, 6 things. that's it) very serious food allergies (anaphylactic in nature. developed in my 30s after my system took a bad hit during a major lupus flare), so it makes me, sad and i totally know what i am missing out on. oh - i'm totally looking at you strawberries and oranges!) - people who love to cook, professionally or otherwise, find me and my 'needs' offensive. (for the record, i am very quiet about all of this. i don't make a big deal about it and i am very used to just eating around whatever's going on. but other people make a big deal and then it turns into a whole embarrassing thing - a thing i was trying to avoid in the first place by not talking about it. haha!! sigh!) meanwhile, i am also a creature of habit in life and with my food. so welcome to boring city, batman!
but the thing is, i love to read about food - cookbooks, memoirs, magazines, stuff online, novels that feature food. i love how much other people love food. (and don't get me wrong. i love food... just in a limited way. it's hard to be too adventurous when food could kill you. or when people think they are funny and 'sneak' something deadly into a recipe, just to test you.) i love how they experiment with food. i love learning about how they came to love food and focus on it so much. it all fascinates me to no end.
so this is a long ramble way of saying that this novel was comfortable for me. the foodie (still a stupid word) parts were interesting and not too far out there - though early on in her new job billie and a coworker go to a friend's new restaurant (called 'nowhere') and it sounded like my idea of a dining nightmare - pig ears, snouts and hooves. the shop where billie had her p/t job - fontanari's - sounded like an awesome place to work and be. and the magazine side of the storyline was fine. but i think reichl tried to do too much with it. there's mention of a snowball cookie in the book. this cookie is basically just a lot of things a 10yo might think makes for a great cookie, jammed into a sugary super-cookie. it's too much for most people. and this story is a bit of a snowball cookie. and they way the novel was edited into 3 books is a bit puzzling, so i don' think that served the story well.
overall, though, if you are just in need of a nice story that isn't terribly taxing on your brain, this could be a good choice for you. i can see it being a fun vacation read for many people. it's easy to be carried away by this novel - it's fun and it's got a bit of a sentimental heart. but don't read it if you are feeling hungry. or, read it with a side of cheese. it will maybe make you hungry for all the cheese....more
celeste ng writes beautifully, and this is a great debut novel. i feel she has done something special in giving readers this fmaybe 3.5-stars, really.
celeste ng writes beautifully, and this is a great debut novel. i feel she has done something special in giving readers this flawed and broken family, but (yes, there's a but, sorry!) the mess and the chaos of the story seem too tidy, too... predictable. and, at moments, too clichéd. ng does handle some big subjects in her novel - topics that are well worth attention and discussion. and while these overriding themes - the death of a teen, interracial marriage/families, parenting, personal hopes & dreams, the expectations we place on others, communication: the things that go said and unsaid - are large and ever-present, we aren't being clobbered over the head. ng is a sensitive writer. what if found poignant were the ideas of not being seen and not being heard - how you can belong to a family yet really have no clue what is real or true for the people closest to you.
i am still thinking on this read, and maybe my thoughts will gel better, or i may begin to feel stronger about it. i actually hope that happens. and i am looking forward to its inclusion in the 2015 tournament of books (http://www.themorningnews.org/article...).
jamison wonderfully says what i wish i could have:
"But I’ve also come to recognize that I resist them [clichés] for good reasons and bad ones: I resist them because I want to grant room for nuance and complexity; but I also resist them because I’m afraid of the fact that in certain basic ways my experience is just like everyone else’s, and I deeply want to believe in the exceptionality of my own interior life. Resisting the violence of oversimplification doesn’t resist cliché so much as it resists a certain relationship to cliché: clichés as substitutes for exploration, or clichés as final verdicts, ways of herding the free-roaming beasts of experience into a cattle pen. It comes back to whether you think of clichés as portals or conclusions. Clichés work against us when they replace our tongues entirely, when the greeting card messages supplant our own. They work best when they link our singular experiences rather than efface them — when they function as dangling strings around which the rock candy of individual experience crystallizes."