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  1. From the blurb on Amazon - "'One of the most brilliantly inventive writers of this, or any country' (Independent) turns his unique eye on the dark end of the 1960s in his enthralling new novel, a story of music, dreams, drugs and madness, love and grief, stardom's wobbly ladder and fame's Faustian pact." In the beginning there is desperation, the searching for sustenance for the body and the soul. There are trials and tribulations, soaring ethereal moments of musical connection, personal growth, awakenings and chemical enhanced imaginings. All fairly standard fare for a band on the rise in the swinging sixties. To write a novel about the sixties Mitchell will have been well aware there was a huge rabbit hole of cliches he could have fallen foul of. The conundrum, to write about a rock band in the sixties, to populate it with the people and the sounds and images of the day but without turning each page into a tabloid headline diatribe. Of course, this is David Mitchell, he deftly swerves round the obvious cliches but still paints a picture of London midst the time changing, free thinking, coffee bar to cocaine years that you will believe in. Enough name dropping to satisfy without saturating and suffocating the stories of the main characters. There is a slightly odd sub plot involving an ancient being inhabiting the mind of one of the band members. For this reader, this sub plot was superfluous, it detracted from the story, the musical journey of the band. Another annoying thing about any book of fiction about creativity is that as the reader you want to hear the music or see the paintings etc being described. Utopia Avenue’s music is very much a part of this story and I really wanted an accompanying CD so I could listen to the songs. But these small gripes aside, I loved spending time with this band, as a lifelong music lover who has absolutely no musical talent it was good to indulge in that age old pastime of pretending it was me in the band.
  2. Slade House is a short novel comprising five sections, each set on the last Saturday in October, starting in 1979 and then at nine year intervals. That means the last section is set on 31 October 2015. That's TODAY!!!!!! Wow! If only the novel were as good as its timing. Because, in truth, Slade House is a bit of a disappointment. It is set in the same world as Bone Clocks, with the same semi-super-natural beings implacably opposed to one another; the same conceit of innocent bystanders getting their moment to tell their story before being sucked into the bigger plot, the same smattering of period details to create atmosphere. In this case, the narrative drive is a cast if characters visiting a strange house, accessible through a tiny iron door in a blind alley... Just like Bone Clocks, each story starts out quite normally and then takes a swerve for the surreal. Oh, and each story is sort of linked to the previous one with new characters building up some form of collective knowledge. But the background story elements are too short and decrease with each subsequent section - by 2006 they barely exist at all. The characters never feel three-dimensional. And the story element of each section is thin to the point of anorexia. And the bigger story is as big a lot of nonsense as the Bone Clocks story - heck, David Mitchell hasn't even bothered to change the names... To an extent, Slade House is a better novel than Bone Clocks; it lacks a lot of the frantic running around and the super-natural battles that were so dull in Bone Clocks. And whilst Slade House is a bit too thin, it's an easier flaw to carry off than the excessive length of Bone Clocks. However, the selling point of both novels is the basic idea - which was still new and fizzy in Bone Clocks but loses its sparkle when retold. It's a puzzle to understand why Mitchell felt the need to write Slade House. Maybe he was disappointed by the reception of Bone Clocks and thought a reworking would salvage something. Maybe he had some rejected sections in draft and thought he could stitch them together for a sort of Halloween "Easter Egg". However, it comes at the expense of his reputation for each of his novels being substantially different. That's a pity. ***00
  3. What is a Bone Clock? A bone clock is a person, maturing and ageing. Starting as a weak and helpless baby, becoming strong, getting wise, getting frail, dying. And because you can tell a person's stage of life just by looking, they are a bone clock. Simples. In The Bone Clocks, just as in Ghostwritten, we find a series of separate stories with a thread of connection, But whilst Ghostwritten jumps across space, The Bone Clocks jumps over time - although there are a fair few different locations too. There is a common thread - far more so than in Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas, but there is still the feel of different narrators, different voices and different situations. The novel is broadly linear, although each section does have some element of backstory. It is not actually tricksy. But there are some jaw dropping moments. The first of these, in a house in Iwade, is so jarring that the reader could be forgiven for losing faith in the novel. But stick with it and things do proceed on an evenish keel. Only one of the sections i really weird and even that, if you can sift through the weirdness, has human relationships at its core. It is also necessary for setting up the last section, set in the 2040s. Some of the novel is very funny. There's a lovely section about an ageing novelist doing the tour of world literary festivals. He's such an outrageous bludger that one can't help but smile - if only he had put half as much energy into his writing as he puts into revenge... The section set in the Alps is also great as a ghastly set of wealthy and aristocratic students go skiing. It's the last section, though, that steals the show. On the face of it, it is difficult and disappointing. There are messages - at one point spelled out in terms that are too obvious. But they do leave many ideas burning slowly regarding progress, immortality, loss, hope, nostalgia, colonialism, security and morality. It needs the long build up of the many other sections to pack the punch of the denouement. David Mitchell is, above all else, a storyteller. The Bone Clocks works on both the surface level and at a deeper level. But he is also a master of different styles and the sheer variety in this novel is mind-blowing, straddling genres but pulling it into a single, coherent whole. There are lots of playful references to previous works and other books (was the reference to The Narrow Road to the Deep North coincidental?) and there are references to popular culture and neuroses. The future world sections are not meant to be predictions, but rather reflections of today's fears. The Bone Clocks is a daring work and some people will dislike the most daring elements. For me, it worked and is at least as strong as Cloud Atlas - and may be David Mitchell's strongest yet. *****
  4. A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified ‘dinery server’ on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation – the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us. RRP: £7.99, <a href ="http://www.thebookplace.com/bookplace/spring2005.asp?CID=BGO733" TARGET="_blank">The Book Pl@ce</a> Price: £5.99 Just click on book jacket <A HREF="http://www.thebookplace.com/bookplace/display.asp?ISB=0340822783&CID=BGO733" TARGET="_blank"> <IMG SRC=""></A>
  5. Found this a struggle to start with, partly because historical literature is just not my genre these days and it's set in Japan in 1799. I also found the number of incidental characters tricky to keep track of. Once I got past those two issues, what a fantastic read this was. All of Mitchell's hallmark brilliance with language, a very sympathetic protagonist, a refreshingly original plot and such vivid imagery throughout. When I got to the end, I genuinely felt as though I had been on an emotional journey with the characters. It's nothing like Cloud Atlas in form, but is not dissimilar in style to the first part of that book. I highly recommend this book - I loved it.
  6. This was DM's first novel: a series in nine parts which could be read as standalone stories as each one comes to its own conclusion, with the first being reprised at the end. However, each is linked to another, or others among the chapters - character(s) reappear in other stories, either as bit parts or in more meaningful roles. There are also recurrent themes throughout the book. He starts in Tokyo and talks about it being so big, no-one knows where it stops. This enormity is brought down to the level of an individual involved in the Sarin gas attack. Indeed, many of the chapters have enormous settings, either in terms of population (Hong Kong) or miles (Mongolia), but concentrate on individuals within that setting. Interesting that I have just read Leyla's thread on The Music of Chance. There is an actual ghostwriter in one of the stories, who is in a band called The Music of Chance - which seems to indicate that DM is aware of his place in post-modern literature. I didn't think, though, that this was the reason for the title - one of the characters is involved in artificial intelligence and the denouement involves this being taken to its ultimate conclusion. I would be interested to know if others have read it and took it this way. ZebraMc
  7. Rescued Thread Mungus 16th June 2006, 02:55 PM Black Swan Green, the new offering from David Mitchell is a total departure from his previous novel, Cloud Atlas. This is a much more traditional book, telling the story of a year in the life of Jason Taylor, an average, middle class 13 year old with a stutter. It's 1982, so the year plays out against a backdrop of the Falklands War, union unrest, unemployment and Butterscotch Angel Delight. The Eighties setting was what attracted me to the book (being of an age with the narrator) but I was also worried that this would shape the book too much. In fact, the book is more a study of what it is like to be 13 and what it takes to survive the politics of the playground. Jason is vulnerable because of his stutter and strives to be one of the middle ranking kids that are invisible. This status changes over the course of the year and Jason starts to mature and cope. It is an excellent book which really reminded me how dreadful and wonderful the early teens can be. Jason is a likeable and believable character. The writing style is cleverly done to balance between the clumsiness of an adolescent and the occasional elegance of a would be poet/writer. Highly recommended. Leese 16th June 2006, 03:29 PM This is on my TBR list (but to buy first, hasn't made it onto the pile yet), after hearing the serialisation on Radio 4. Sadly it was on so late that I ended up falling asleep quite a bit and missing bits, but I liked what I heard, very much. Thanks for the thoughts, Mungus. Anything that remembers Butterscotch Angel Delight (can you still get that stuff?!) is good by me. donnae 16th June 2006, 05:46 PM This is my current read. I am about 1/4 of the way through. As much as I loved most of Cloud Atlas, I am finding the narrative of this book much more flowing (maybe I am think more like a 13 year old ), but then is one story compared to the six different stories running through C.A The 80s setting was part of the attraction for me as I was also a teenager then. I would be interested how someone much younger/older would react to it. Mungus, you say that the time period doesn't overshadow the story, and I am sure I will find that is the case as I progress further. elfstar 16th June 2006, 06:34 PM I got stuck half way through Cloud Atlas so am wary BUT you can still get butterscotch Angel Delight .... my boys love it. Hazel 16th June 2006, 07:09 PM I love it as well. But I do remember in the early 90s, that whenever my friend's mum and dad were out, we would buy about 4 packets and make the whole lot up. Then we would spend all afternoon eating it (with teaspoons so it would last longer), while watching Arnie Schwarzenegger films (and pointing out the continuity errors). Those were the days. Mungus 16th June 2006, 07:28 PM I was once fed Strawberry Angel Delight before a long car journey. I used to get badly car sick. Not a pretty sight! 30 years on and I still recall it vividly... BSG is definitely a much easier read than Cloud Atlas (which I loved too), there's nothing remotely challenging about this book, it's a delight all of its own! donnae 3rd July 2006, 05:58 PM Finished reading BSG yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It had a very strong feel of that period, but I agree with Mungus that it didn't overshadow the story. Mitchell obviously hasn't forgotten the agonies of being a teenager - the bullies, the friends, family life - the difficult balance of trying to fit in with everyone. I liked the inclusion of a character from Cloud Atlas, but wish that perhaps she had been there for a bit longer. The shadow of the Falklands War hung over the story, and I felt that Mitchell probably has some anti-Thatcherite feelings, but he doesn't let them dominate the story. Overall a very enjoyable, readable book. Mungus 3rd July 2006, 07:02 PM Good spot donnae, that passed me by completely - who was it. It's been a long time since I read Cloud Atlas so I probably won't get it even when you tell me! donnae 3rd July 2006, 10:46 PM Hi Mungus, I will spoiler this bit in case of anyone reading this who hasn't read BSG or Cloud Atlas. Having checked Cloud Atlas to make sure I spelt the names correctly has made me want to read it again! I think it is one of those books that would definitely yield more on a second reading. Adrian 20th August 2006, 07:59 AM I thought Black Swan Green a great read. He wrote from the perspective of a thirteen year old boy well, and me being about the same age as Jason helped. He laid the eighties schtick on a bit thick I thought, as if he'd had a group of his mates round and thought of all the things from that time and he thought he had to get them all into his book. But it wasn't too bad, and the writing was good. Certainly a change from his previous books. I shouldn't be so sensitive, but as a fellow sufferer at school, Jason doesn't stutter, he stammers. Page 30: Lecture over! Mungus 20th August 2006, 10:56 AM I stand corrected, sorry. katrina 7th January 2007, 11:50 AM I just started it, I'm a couple of chapters in and absolutely loving it, I'm using it as a reward today every time I mark 25 exam papers I'm allowed to read a chapter. As I was fairly young in the eighties I have very few memories so I'll have to see if the setting has a strong affect on the story. So far I had figured out the time period but it hasn't had a huge effect on the story. I love the way he discribes being a teenager, I remember all those levels of acceptability and I can still see it going on now with the kids that I teach - although I don't recall peoples names being used to show their position. The food is just dreadful, when the obviously m/c family sat down to a meal with findus crispy pancakes I felt sick instantly - there was not one piece of fresh food mentioned in the meal although I do love (and still treat myself to) Butterscotch Angel Delight. katrina 9th January 2007, 06:42 PM I'm still loving the book and struggling to put it down at night. I just had one comment to make whilst I think of it. Somebody earlier in the thread posed a question about whether your reaction to the book depends on whether you lived through the eighties at a similar age to the character. I came across 1 chapter which I really found hard to relate to, the chapter on the Falklands War - now I was probably learning to crawl when this war was happening, but I have obviously seen other wars happen over the years, but the characters were so affected by the war, they always sat to watch it on the news, they were really affected by the sinking of a ship - The Sheffield, the the boy even kept a scrap book. Now I'm rubbish with history but were British people far more aware of this war, and more emotionally involved with it than they were with the recent wars in Iraq? I also found this chapter (and The Line Of Beauty) to be particuarly focused on Maggie Thatcher, all I remember about her is really bad things - was she really seen as that good. You'll have to excuse my ignorance, but these parts of the book really rely on a knowledge or experience of the time. katrina 10th January 2007, 10:16 PM Just finished the book and wanted to post my thoughts whilst they are still fresh. I loved the book pretty much the whole way through. I was the perfect reflection on the hell that is teenage life and may me remember why I never wanted to be a teenager again. As an adult you could see the situations as they were arising - like the Dad issue, and the first kiss - you kind off wanted to put a hand out and protect hime from them.
  8. Thank Goodness! I will admit to approaching this book with minimal enthusiasm, but I was prepared to put aside my predjudice against hyper-hyped books and enthuse if I thought the writing warranted it. Possibly, if you read it in really big chunks (maybe chapters 1-5, in one sitting, then chapter6, and finish with chapters 7-11 in one final sitting it might all hang together, but I found it very disjointed, and the difference in style/genre of the 6 stories was, to my mind rather gimmicky. The language used in the middle story was almost incomprehensible at the start, and then just became an irritating obstacle. The connections between each section were either too slight or too obvious, so there was no pleasure to be gained from playing 'spot the join', although I did enjoy the 'Sixsmith' connection. I was really disappointed that the interruption to the 'Timothy Cavendish' story wasn't caused by the film being stopped in the Somni 451 chapter. I have posted about the birthmark in the appropriate chapter. I hope I haven't inadvertantly posted a 'spoiler' anywhere for any of you. The end of the Adam Ewing story was spoiled for me by a review I read somewhere (not on BGO, I think it was an Amazon review). Although I have read and enjoyed other books with unusual constructions, or with the use of difficult language/dialect, and books in all the genres used for the different chapters, I didn't really get much satifaction from reading this book. If it doesn't have a plot, a novel should be really well written, and I didn't think this came into that category.
  9. I started this with The Time Travelers Wife and I think its good to get an overall feel for what we thought of the book. However I do think I need to do something about the time delay so I'll change the structure in future. ...........So here is the poll to gauge whether it gets the or the or even the I'm keeping the choices simple again. The next one will be wider but I might need more smilies!
  10. I've just started this and am about 100 pages in, so I'm into the first Louisa Rey story. I found the language and sentence structure of the Adam Ewing section quite contrived. While I accept that 19th century writing generally uses a more complex structure I found this imitation a bit over the top. The Robert Frobisher letters tended to ramble on a bit but I suppose that is the nature of letter writing. So far my feelings are a bit mixed............I'll stick with it.
  11. I have just thrown the book across the room! I was already annoyed by Tim Cavendish's train journey. First of all, getting 'past Saffron Walden' is a little disingenuous, implying as it does that the line runs somewhere near the town. It doesn't, it is nowhere near. Then Adelstrop? This may be my mistake, perhaps there is an Adlestrop on the way to Hull, but the only one I know is in Gloucestershire. But , Aurora House I just couldn't stomach!! I work in a Residential Care Home for the elderly, and train staff in various statutary subjects. Cavendish is subject to various types of abuse...all illegal. And restraint, also illegal. Threatened with the 'chemical cosh'...another form of abuse, illegal! This home cannot exist in this day and age, under the kind of inspection regime enforced by The Care Standards Agency. As this section of the book is supposedly set in roughly the present day, shouldn't the 'rest home' be a modern one, not a throw back to pre-war conditions? And now the book is all battered and tatty from the force with which I hurled it against the door.
  12. I read CA a month ago and said then it needed another reading at least to get some of the nuances I missed the first time. Unfortunately for me, CA has come up too soon for me consider re-reading it, so I'll have to go with what I remember. I don't recall every one of the six main characters having the same tattoo. I wasn't watching out for it, which is one of the reasons it needs at least one more read. Did I miss some? I thought one of the motifs running through the book was that the six all shared certain characteristics (and may even have been the same "soul").
  13. I have just finished the first chapter, and was greatly irritated when it finished in the middle of a sentence. As it is widely known that the first half of the book consists of the beginning of six stories that continue in reverse order in the second half, ending with the story it started with, I sneaked a look at the start of the last chapter. Yes, the sentence continues there. A quick glance at the next story revealed that the second section seems to be a continuation of the letters in the earlier part. The Temptation is to read the whole of each story straight off, as though it was just a series of short stories, and not bother with the order in which it is laid out. Before I give in to this temptation, can someone tell me that there is a point to this strange construction? Am I going to miss something vital if I don't resist? At the moment I feel that D.M. just took half a dozen short manuscripts and divided each roughly in half, put them in two piles, stacked one on top of each other and said 'There's a book to set reviewers talking!' It is not that I have any particular problem with unusually constructed books (I enjoyed 'Time's Arrow'), but I need to believe there's a point to it, and that it's not just a shot at a 'literary' award.
  14. A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified ‘dinery server’ on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation – the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
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