The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 1

Friday, January 20, 2017

This post assumes that you have read the first half of the book.

A Hot Spell: 1984 – Holly Sykes
The Bone Clocks kicks off with Holly Sykes. She’s a British teenager, typically rebellious and in love for the first time. Her story is relatable, even if she’s a bit annoying at first (aren’t we all annoying at that age?).

I loved Holly section. Mitchell made her feel immediately accessible and real. She feels like any teenager you might know, someone young, dealing with heartbreak for the first time. That's crucial because just as you get comfortable in her story, things get weird. We understand her and relate to her and so when the situation turns to the fantastical we can imagine how strange the scenario would be through her eyes. Her section reminded me a little bit of The Dark Is Rising series.

Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume: 1991 – Hugo Lamb

Next in line is a devious university student. Hugo’s lack of a moral code and creativity in his scheming was fascinating. He was a character who you aren't exactly rooting for, but you secretly enjoy seeing what he can get away with. He’s so charismatic, you can see how others trust him and fall under his spell. It was strange, almost a bit out of character, to see him actually care about something when he met Holly. In every scene of his, I just kept thinking, what’s his angle? He always thought through every situation to find out exactly how it would benefit him. So every time he interacted with someone, I was just waiting to see what his true motivation was.

The Wedding Bash: 2004 – Ed Brubeck

Ed is a war journalist working in Baghdad. It’s the same Ed from Holly’s section and now they have a daughter together and he’s home for a short trip for Holly’s sister’s wedding on the Brighton pier. When his daughter Aoife went missing my entire body was anxious. I was terrified for Ed and Holly, and the entire Sykes family, which had already been through this with Jacko.

I loved Ed’s conversation on the pier with Immaculée Constantin. She's so deliciously evil. I also loved the conversation with Holly's great aunt Eilísh. Her experience with Jacko shed so much light on the story. The flashbacks to Ed's time in Baghdad lost me for a minute because it was so different from the rest of the book, but just like the other switches in narrative, after a bit it clicked for me.

A Few Thoughts:

Switching gears between each story was hard. I remember feeling the same way when reading Cloud Atlas. Each section was so different, at first there felt like there was no flow between them. But soon you fall into a new rhythm and somehow it works. By the time I finished the third section it was obvious that Holly was the thread tying all the stories together. I loved that we were able to see her at different stages throughout her life. It reminded me of Kitchens of the Great Midwest in the sense that it is one character’s story, but told through the eyes of so many people around her.

One of the most fascinating things about this book is that it's mainly about normal people, with everyday problems, except there's also a supernatural element threaded through the entire book. The very fact that the characters are so relatable and human makes the supernatural element so readable. Because you were seeing it through their eyes and their incredulity matches your own. I loved the way that was handled.
It is not an easy book to read. It is complicated and at times it’s hard to follow. But for me, so far, the stumbling blocks have been more than worth it. I’m intrigued by the whole world Mitchell has created. Each character adds intricate layers to the story. It's beautifully written. I feel like each section has its own unique tone and cadence. I certainly don’t understand the whole picture yet, but I trust that we’ll get there.

“When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it.”

"Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat, and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields, and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.”

“While the wealthy are no more likely to be born stupid than the poor, a wealthy upbringing compounds stupidity while a hardscrabble childhood dilutes it, if only for Darwinian reasons."

"If an atrocity isn't written about, it stops existing when the last witnesses die."

“Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose.”

Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3

Monday, January 16, 2017

Henry VI Part 1, 2, and 3
By William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare’s histories have always felt less accessible to me than his other work. But I realized the other day that it’s probably because I’m not that familiar with the people involved. What is the musical “Hamilton” if not our version of Shakespeare's histories? It’s a theatrical show based on our own country’s history. Shakespeare's histories are not as easy for us to understand because we they are covering a time period that we don’t always learn about. But during Shakespeare's time everyone knew who those dukes and kings were, just as we know names like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, all of that to say that these three plays worked much better for me than some of the other histories of his I've tackled and I think it’s because I finally made that connection. It was also incredibly helpful to me to watch the Hollow Crown series before reading the plays. It covers all three of these plays although it's called Henry VI Part one and two, it's really a combination of parts 1, 2 and 3.They are so well done and watching those first helped me picture a face with a name while reading the place, which helped me keep all the characters straight.

These plays are part of the eight plays that make up the War of the Roses. Henry VI Part 1 includes the original scene where the characters pick a white or red rose to declare their allegiance. From there it’s a constant stream of battle and betrayal as they all fight for the thrown. Poor King Henry VI is thrust into his role as monarch when he’s only a baby. The death of his father meant a life time watching others attempt to steal his throne. Almost everyone in the plays comes to a bloody end by the final curtain. 

A few thoughts:
Margaret was such a bad ass. She was conniving, but she was strong where her husband, King Henry VI, was weak. I have to admire her and she certainly has some of the best lines. 

We meet the infamous Richard in these plays. I'd read and seen Richard III before, so reading these gave me a better understanding of his character's background. He’s a delicious villain and one that I loved getting to know.
“Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions”

BOTTOM LINE: I ended up loving them. I was surprised by how hooked I got on the War of the Roses drama, but it’s like a soap opera. It’s amazing to see how power seems to corrupt all the touch it. Even those who are not driven with a desire for power are often the easiest to steal power from, because they aren’t as vicious as others. I would definitely read part 1, 2, and 3 back-to-back because they work better as one continuous story. I also highly recommend watching the Hollow Crown series first, but just dive into the plays and enjoy them! 

“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”

“For where thou art, there is the world itself,
With every several pleasure in the world,
And where thou art not, desolation.”

“Unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone.”

The Trial

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Trial 
By Franz Kafka


“The term "Kafkaesque" is used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of the author’s work, particularly The Trial and The Metamorphosis. Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation.” - Wikipedia

Considering the fact that this novel inspired the term “Kafkaesque” it’s an understatement to say it’s hard to follow. A man, K., is arrested at the beginning of the book. Throughout all of the twists and turns that follow, he never learns why he is arrested or what any of the charges against him are. He fights through one bureaucratic line of red tape after another, but with no success.

It’s a strange book, full of weird encounters, unexplained conversations, and surreal situations. But at the same time, can’t we all relate to the mind-numbing experience of trying to understand something the government has decided? We’ve all felt helpless while trying to deal with an insurance company’s absurd rules or a simple misunderstanding turning into a huge problem because a corporate entity has gotten involved.

BOTTOM LINE: I didn't love it, but I appreciate that Kafka perfectly highlighted the absurdity of bureaucracy. It was weird, but I’m glad I have a better understanding of what it mean for something to be “Kafkaesque”.

My Word for 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Quality time. Quality things. Quality over quantity. Quality books and movies. Quality experiences. This word just keeps popping up when I think about what I want from the upcoming year. 

The past year has been a whirlwind. A new baby definitely changes your priorities and makes some things much trickier. It's harder to spend time relaxing and watching a movie or grabbing a beer with a friend. Definitely still possible, but harder. Your time is limited and you want to make sure you are finding some sort of balance between home/friends/work, etc. 

With that in mind I find myself once again thinking about QUALITY. I want to do all of those things, but it might be less often than before, so I want each moment to count. I feel the same way about things. Having a baby brings a whole lot of stuff into your house. You quickly realize that your home can be filled with plastic junk if you aren't careful. 

I've purged so much in the past year and a half and it's so freeing! When I bring something into our home I want it to be something that will last for years. Whether it's wooden blocks for Sydney or a new pair of shoes for me. I'm done with buying junk.

So that's my 2017 goal. Quality in every aspect of life. Do you have any goals for the new year?

Books & Brews

Thursday, January 5, 2017

So there's this little pub in a town near me and it's called Books & Brews. Obviously this is a new favorite place. Not only is the beer good (I had The Stout of Monte Cristo) the beer and food all have literary names! Check out the sandwich list below...

There's a cozy little second floor where you can shop for books or sit and chat while you enjoy your beer. There's a nook for kids on the first floor. I just love it. I can assure you we will be back again soon!
Photos by me. 

The Bone Clocks

Monday, January 2, 2017

In 2012 Care's Books and Pie and I co-hosted a readalong of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I think that was the first (of many) readalongs we've hosted together. It was the craziest book, layered and complicated, but so beautiful. 

I can't even explain how much it helped to read it with a group. Hearing everyone else's thoughts on the plot helped me better understand it. Each person who participated brought their own unique view and it made the reading experience so much richer. 

So in the same spirit, Care and I have decided to host a readalong of Mitchell's novel The Bone Clocks. Here's a bit about the book...

"This is a feast of a book—perhaps the author’s best to date—a saga that spans decades, characters, genres, and events from Mitchell's other novels. The structure is most similar to Cloud Atlas, with The Bone Clocks pivoting around a central character: Holly Sykes. Each chapter/novella is narrated from the perspective of an intersecting character, with settings ranging from England in the 80s to the apocalyptic future. Each story could stand alone as a work of genius, as they slowly build on Holly’s unwitting role in a war between two groups with psychic powers, culminating in a thrilling showdown reminiscent of the best of Stephen King. Taken together this is a hugely entertaining page-turner, an operatic fantasy, and an often heartbreaking meditation on mortality. It’s not to be missed." 

“One of the most entertaining and thrilling novels I’ve read in a long time.”Meg Wolitzer, NPR

“Astonishing . . . No one, clearly, has ever told Mitchell that the novel is dead. He writes with a furious intensity and slapped-awake vitality, with a delight in language and all the rabbit holes of experience."The New York Times Book Review. 

The readalong starts today and loosely goes until the end of February. It's a big book and I don't want anyone to feel rushed. I'll do a wrap-up post in the end (and maybe a mid-way post too). It will be a relaxed readalong, go at your own pace and post thoughts here or on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #boneclocks17.Feel free to grab the button below to use!