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The Chimes

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,761 ratings  ·  585 reviews
The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London s
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published February 12th 2015 by Sceptre
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Average rating 3.38  · 
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 ·  2,761 ratings  ·  585 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
''In the quiet days of power,
Seven ravens in the tower.
When you clip the raven's wing,
Then the bird begins to sing."

What is Memory? Let us think on its importance for a moment. Can we even begin to imagine a life without it? Our mind a blank sheet and unable to store and retrieve the moments of our lives.Where would we be without Memory? When we don't remember we lack the means to be reminded of our mistakes.When we don't remember our mistakes,we end up repeating them. Now,I think we agree o
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This is a love letter: to the power of music, to the pain and beauty of memory, and to love and understanding. Take my word for it, and go read this book.
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia
“But some memories are more important than others,' she says. 'Because some memories belong to more than just one other person...Some memories tell us about who we are. They need to be kept safe so that things can change for all of us."

This is set up so well, a mysterious dystopian London, sort of medieval in character, where a young orphan, Simon arrives with an important mission he knows he will forget as soon as evening arrives. He will forget because a totalitarian regime is in power and bes
The Chimes is one of the candidates longlisted for this year's Booker Prize - a debut novel by the New Zealand poet and violinist, Anna Smail. One of my goals is to eventually read not only every Booker winner, but also every Booker nominee; I picked up this book since it seemed to be the more intriguing of the lot, and a good candidate to start this year's Booker list with.

Set in an alternate London and nearabouts, The Chimes introduces what could be an intriguing dystopian world: people have b
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I read the blurb about this book I thought I was going to like it and I did! I do enjoy the occasional dystopian story, especially when they are original and well written and this book is both.
The English setting of course pleased me greatly. I know London and Oxford and the area in between quite well and I love the way place names were retained even though so much else had disappeared.
The writing is poetic and beautiful and made more effective by the inclusion of so many musical terms. Th
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a very refreshing and unexpected take on dystopia! First of all I didn't even KNOW this was going to be a dystopian, but I was very positively surprised. The story unfolds beautifully and the character relationships develop very naturally. If it weren't for the very confusing world building in the beginning this probably would've gotten 5 stars.
A slight disclaimer: unless you have some more in depth musical knowledge, you might have to google your way through the first third of the nov
Holly Dunn
3.5, maybe 4. I was interested to find that when Anna Smaill was writing this she thought of it as a young adult novel. Her publisher had other ideas, and it was instead marketed as adult fiction. This made a lot of sense to me, having just finished the novel, because, while the first half of the book is quite experimental and beautifully written, the second half felt like tripping down a rabbit hole into YA dystopia. Let me elaborate. The first half is eerie and foggy in the same way the Kazuo ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oddly, beautifully unique - music is woven into every page, every line and it is a lovely thing. Some parts make little sense until pieced together later on but this feels completely intentional - the reader following in the path of the characters' own confusion. I found it hard to focus on at first, until a little before halfway through when the story changed and gripped so tightly I couldn't put it down until the final page was turned.

I'm usually a little dubious of Booker Prize listed books,
Joey Woolfardis
As you probably know, long reviews of books are not my thing. I find two-to-three paragraphs enough and any more is wasted words. If three paragraphs cannot get you to read a book then nothing will. Having said that, I have no idea how to fit my feelings and thoughts on this book in to three paragraphs. I cannot even sit here and think of how many stars to give the whole thing: instead I have individual ratings for each aspect of this book and that is what I will now do.

The Chimes is set in a re
David Harris
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot of debate on reviewer websites, book blogs and book podcasts about whether to persist with a book which is difficult to get into. There are so many books, and so little time, after all, that it's tempting to give up and move on.

But every so often a book comes along which rewards perseverance.

This is such a book, and while it may not be to everyone's taste, I want to persuade you to give it a chance, because, once you "get" it, it is beautiful, moving and - yes - exciting and drama
Mogsy (MMOGC)
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Lately, several books have made me think a lot harder about the collective memory of humanity and this one is the most recent. What if we lost that memory, or something happened to prevent us from remembering? What if we lost the ability to record our memories and knowledge for posterity?

In Anna Smaill’s The Chimes, this is the reality for our young protagonist Simon. Orphaned and alone, with only vague instructions from
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started this book because it was on the Man Booker Prize longlist, then set it aside for a while after it didn't make the shortlist. I decided it was worth finishing and went back to it.

I had some difficulties understanding pieces of this book, even sending me back to re-read the first fifty pages and watching various YouTube video reviews of it to try to sort it out. One video featuring two ManBooker Vloggers helped enormously, but it has spoilers if you care about that. They talked about how
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was ok

The writing was beautiful. But the book was a fucking SNOOZEFEST.

I guess I liked the idea of this book much more than the book itself. If I have to be honest I almost dropped it 50 pages in, because it was so...slow. The Chimes has such a slow and confusing start and I really struggled with it.

> The writing is beautiful. It actually saved the book from getting less than 2 stars from me. It shows that the author usually writes poetry, because her writing was poetic and lyrical and utterly bea
Roger Brunyate
A World of Music
After a while my ear begins to hold the tunes in my head long enough to unpick them. The official conversations are loudest—roll calls for choir and orkestra rehearsals, poliss warnings, the announcement of a funeral mass. Below those are striding public conversations—calls for new prentisses, invites to buy food or beer. Then threading through narrow and low are the in-between melodies. The songs people sing piano to their loved ones, calling to their minds the good things of
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2015
I do not think I have read a novel quite like The Chimes before. It is unique and challenging.

By no means an 'easy' read. In fact a lot of concentration and commitment is required for about the first quarter of the novel as it is difficult to get one's head around what is actually going on. However, if one sticks with it they will be rewarded, and an understanding develops of why it was so difficult.

Very cleverly written. I don't want to say too much, as I think trying to provide any sort of bac
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a rather original work revolving around music, the magical effect of music on memories, and how it takes this idea and runs full-hilt into total worldbuilding with it.


I mean that certain music retains memories and others, including the Chimes, takes it away. Most of the world, or at least this oppressive, poverty-stricken future London, has forgotten itself. The Chimes are played to keep all the memories lost.

I love most of this. I really do. You can tell the author is very deep int
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
More like a 2.5. From what I'd heard/read, I was really looking forward to this book, and although some of it was mildly enjoyable, I don't think Smaill understands the difference between being enigmatic ... and downright obtuse. Unless I missed it, I didn't quite understand the correlation between music and its use to simultaneously stifle/stimulate memories, nor why a totalitarian 'Order', which seemed to be under absolutely no threat of being overthrown, would be using music in such a fashion ...more
Helene Jeppesen
After having read half of this book, I've decided to DNF it. Not because it's bad, but because it's just not a book for me. The story is definitely very original and quite intriguing, but it's written in a very messy and boring way, and 50% through the book I'm still not interested in any of the characters. Unfortunately! :-( ...more
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've seen this book described as a dystopian, but I really don't agree with that at all: I think this is more an 'alternate reality'. The book is set in a future England where memory no longer exists, being taken away by the Carillon, a large instrument wielded by a group of magisters. As the Carillon chimes, memories for the day are wiped. There are a few exceptions; people have 'body memory', they may have physical items that carry some memory for them, and there are those like our protagonist ...more
The Chimes starts off slow, heavy.

At first, you find yourself wondering if you’re perhaps too tired to grasp the concepts, to see what’s going on, to understand the words before you. Maybe you need a little while after the last book you read, maybe you’re rushing it.

You’ve been thrown into this world which is like ours in some ways, but so very different in others. You recognise the names of places, instruments, and other daily things, but you’ve also been introduced to so many new words, that a
Amanda Landegren
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it
I like this book for its imaginative world building. The musical imagery in connection with the musical language makes the read very vivid and atmospheric.

However, while I thought the structure was skillfully composed, it ultimately became this book's downfall for me. The author manages to convey a feeling of chronic memory loss and everything starts to clear up as the characters retrieve their memories. The unfortunate effect of this was that you as a reader initially had very little clue abou
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars rounded up because it was so different. The idea is/was brilliant, a world where memories do not persist, the masses can't read and communicate and give instruction through song. The prose was borderline poetic and very introspective. All the descriptions seemed to relate to the mood Simon was feeling at that point which if you think about it happens to all of us as well. The story was a bit tough to grab at first but I fell into it about 1/2 way through.

The problems and loss of stars
Charlotte Jones
Aug 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: review-copies
The premise of this novel intrigued me as soon as I heard about it but I was extremely disappointed. I got this book for review from the publisher but as always I have to give my completely honest opinions, I honestly I found that this book had a lot of flaws that I couldn't get past.

In this dystopian novel, music plays a huge part in the way people now communicate and music controls their lives in many ways. Although this concept was certainly intriguing, I felt that it was explored in a way th
Book Haunt
Young orphan, Simon Wythern, leaves the farm he grew up on and heads to London carrying only his memory bag. In his memory bag are the items which contain the memories that he wants to hold onto, all the bits of the life he’s led thus far. You see, in Simon’s world, the only memories people retain are those that they carry in their memory bag. If you lose your memory bag, you become one of the nameless, those wandering without purpose, where each day is a new day, without memories of the days th ...more
Nita Kohli
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
The Chimes is first novel from Anna Smaill and the book has been listed in Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2015). Before this, she has authored one book of poetry.

Book Cover

One word - Beautiful!!


The book is set in a dystopian world; in London which is very different from what we have in present.
The people cannot form memories; every day they wake up and form memories which are next day forgotten. Each day they have to re-learn about them selves. Also, there are no words. In the absenc
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you exams for making a 289 page book take me over 2 weeks to read!!

I don't really know how I feel about this book. On one hand, there is absolutely nothing I liked about this book. I cannot pinpoint 1 single aspect of the book that I enjoyed, yet I did enjoy it somewhat. basically my rating is: it was ok.

This book follows a future world where Chimes go off every night and everyone loses their memories. Simon, the main character, is able to remember things when he holds objects that have me
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Intriguing sci-fi/fantasy dystopian first novel effort. Clearly a lot of talent here, but the novel is very uneven. A deeply intriguing world is created - I've read complaints about how confusing it is, but I enjoyed the work. Unfortunately, just when you have your bearings and are really enjoying Smaill's creation, the story shifts into a much more conventional quest novel.

You know, the one in which a handful of young people must destroy a totalitarian state by traveling to the center of power
Waitalie Nat
Jul 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
I began reading this book being fully aware of its weirdness and complexity - traits promised by more than one Goodreads review. I was also looking forward to its lyrical language and Smaill's personal twist on the dystopian plot. However. All in all, it just didn't work for me. Interweaving musical and regular language, although fairly interesting and original, bogged down the reading process and - as I don't consider myself a musical person at all- it made me think that I was constantly missin ...more
Maya Panika
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read many wonderful books but rarely anything so singular, poetic, exceptional, as utterly unique as The Chimes.
On the surface, this is yet another post-apocalyptic, dystopian story of life amidst the horrors of a state ruled by a remote elite - in this case, a quasi-religious order of absolutist purity, where words are nothing and music is all. The Order exert control by stealing memory, effectively crippling all dissent, keeping the population cowed and bovine, "nameless wandering ones... c
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm really conflicted, but I did really like the middle. I shall be back with a full review once I've got my thoughts in order *sings song to help me* 😂 ...more
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Saucy Wenches Boo...: The Chimes [November BotM] 15 9 Nov 22, 2017 04:57PM  
Squabbling Dragons: * The Chimes by Anna Smaill 8 21 Sep 20, 2017 11:30PM  
All About Books: The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Aug 17 Group Fiction Read) 26 39 Aug 29, 2017 03:04PM  
The Dragon's Hoar...: The Chimes by Anna Smaill [SPOILER FREE] 1 3 Jan 16, 2017 02:37PM  
ManBookering: The Chimes by Anna Smaill 15 121 Oct 01, 2015 02:07PM  
Book Loving Kiwis: The Booker Longlist 7 29 Jul 31, 2015 10:17PM  
Aussie Readers: The Chimes by Anna Smaill 3 30 Jun 11, 2015 09:26PM  

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Anna Smaill lives in Wellington with her husband, novelist Carl Shuker, and her daughter. She studied performance violin at Canterbury University and creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at the University of Victoria, and has a PhD in English Literature from University College London. She is the author of one book of poetry (The Violinist in Spring, VUP 2005) and her p ...more

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“But some memories are more important than others,' she says. 'Because some memories belong to more than just one other person...Some memories tell us about who we are. They need to be kept safe so that things can change for all of us” 8 likes
“How without mercy and without blame we have all of us been. And how careless to have misplaced so much.” 4 likes
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