Excerpt from The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Bone Clocks

A Novel

by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell X
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 640 pages

    Jun 2015, 656 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Print Excerpt

Up ahead, in the distance, men are fishing.

Weird Shit, Last Act. Even as I was half carried to the school nurse's room, I could hear the Radio People were back. Hundreds of them, all whispering at once. That freaked me out but not as much as the idea that I'd killed Susan Hillage. So I told the nurse about the Radio People and Miss Constantin. The old dear thought I was concussed at best and nuts at worst, so she called Mam, who called our GP, and later that day I was being seen by an ear doctor at Gravesend General Hospital. He couldn't find anything wrong, but suggested a child psychiatrist he knew from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London who specialized in cases like mine. Mam was all "My daughter's not mental!" but the doctor scared her with the word "tumor." After the worst night of my life—I prayed to God to keep Miss Constantin away, had the Bible under my pillow but, thanks to the Radio People, I could hardly sleep a wink—we got a call from the ear doctor saying that his friend the specialist was due in Gravesend in one hour, and could Mam bring me up right now?

Dr. Marinus was the first Chinese person I ever met, apart from the ones at the Thousand Autumns Restaurant, where me and Brendan were sometimes sent for takeaways if Mam was too tired to cook. Dr. Marinus spoke in posh, perfect English, quite softly, so you had to pay close attention to catch everything. He was short and skinny but sort of filled the room anyway. First he asked 'bout school and my family and stuff, then moved on to my voices. Mam was all, "My daughter's not crazy, if that's what you're implying—it's just concussion." Dr. Marinus told Mam that he agreed, I wasn't remotely crazy, but the brain could be an illogical place. To help him rule out a tumor, she had to let me answer his questions on my own. So I told him about the Radio People and Susan Hillage and Miss Constantin. Mam went all jittery again but Dr. Marinus assured her that auditory hallucinations—"daymares"—were not uncommon in girls my age. He told me that Susan Hillage's accident was a big coincidence, and that coincidences even of this size were happening to people all over the world, right now; my turn had come, that was all. Mam asked if there was any medicine to stop these daymares, and I remember Dr. Marinus saying that, before we went down that route, he'd like to try a simpler technique from "the Old Country." It worked like acupuncture, he said, but it didn't use needles. He got Mam to squeeze a point on my middle finger—he marked it with a Biro—then touched a place on my forehead, in the middle, with his thumb. Like an artist putting on a dab of paint. My eyes shut ...

... and the Radio People were gone. Not just quiet, but gone-gone. Mam knew from my face what'd happened, and she was as shocked and relieved as me. She was all, "Is that it? No wires, no pills?" Dr. Marinus said, Yes, that ought to do the job.

I asked if Miss Constantin'd gone forever, too.

The doctor said, Yes, for the foreseeable future.

The End. We left, I grew up, and neither the Radio People nor Miss Constantin ever came back. I saw a few documentaries and stuff about how the mind plays tricks on you, and now I know that Miss Constantin was just a sort of imaginary friend—like Sharon's Bunny Bunny Boing Boing—gone haywire. Susan Hillage's accident was just a massive coincidence, like Dr. Marinus'd told me. She didn't die, but moved to Ramsgate, though some people'd say it's the same difference. Dr. Marinus did some sort of hypnotism thing on me, like those cassettes you can buy to stop yourself smoking. Mam stopped saying "Chink" from that day on, and even today she's down like a ton of bricks on anyone who does. "It's 'Chinese' not 'Chink,' " she tells them, "and they're the best doctors in the National Health."

My watch says it's one o'clock. Far behind me, stick-men are fishing in the shallows off Shornemead Fort. Up ahead's a gravel pit, with a big cone of stone and a conveyor belt feeding a barge. I can see Cliffe Fort, too, with windows like empty eye sockets. Old Mr. Sharkey says it used to house antiaircraft batteries in the war, and when people in Gravesend heard the big guns, they knew they had sixty seconds—tops—to get into their air-raid shelters under the stairs or down the garden. Wish a bomb'd fall on a certain house in Peacock Street, right now. Bet they're scoffing pizza for lunch—Vinny lives on pizza 'cause he can't be arsed to cook. Bet they're laughing about me. I wonder if Stella stayed over last night. You just fall in love with each other, I thought, and that's all there is to it. Stupid. Stupid! I kick a stone but it's not a stone, it's a little outcrop of rock that mashes my toe. Pain draws a jagged line up to my brain. And now my eyes are hot and watering—where's all the water coming from, f'Chrissakes? The only water I've drunk today is when I cleaned my teeth and the milk on my Weetabix. My tongue's like that oasis stuff they use for flower arranging. My duffel bag's rubbing a sore patch on my shoulder. My heart's a clubbed baby seal. My stomach must be empty, but I'm too miserable to feel it yet. I'm not turning round and going home, though. No bloody way.

Excerpted from The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Copyright © 2014 by David Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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