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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One night, I had a nightmare about killer bees loose in the Captain Marlow, and woke up in a sweat. A lady was sat at the end of my bed saying, "Don't worry, Holly, it's all right," and I said, "Thanks, Mam," 'cause who else could it be? Then I heard Mam laughing in the kitchen down the corridor—this was before my bedroom was up in the attic. That was how I knew I'd only dreamt the lady on my bed, and I switched on the light to prove it.

And sure enough nobody was there.

"Don't be afraid," said the lady, "but I'm as real as you are."

I didn't scream or freak out. Sure, I was shaking, but even in my fear, I felt it was like a puzzle or a test. There was nobody in my room, but someone was speaking to me. So, as calm as I could, I asked the lady if she was a ghost. "Not a ghost," said the lady who wasn't there, "but a visitor to your mind. That's why you can't see me." I asked what my visitor's name was. Miss Constantin, she said. She said she'd sent the Radio People away, because they were a distraction, and hoped I didn't mind. I said no. Miss Constantin said she had to go but that she'd love to drop by soon because I was "a singular young lady."

Then she was gone. It took me ages to fall asleep, but by the time I did, I sort of felt I'd made a friend.

What now? Go home? I'd rather stick pins in my gums. Mam'll make me steaming shit pie, dripping in shit gravy, and sit there smug as hell watching me eat every shitty morsel, and from now until the end of time, if ever I'm anything less than yes-sir-no-sir-three-bags-full-sir, she'll bring up the Vinny Costello Incident. Okay, so I'm not living in Peacock Street but I can still leave home, at least for long enough to prove to Mam that I'm old enough to take care of myself so she can stop treating me like I'm seven years old. I've enough money to feed myself for a bit and the hot spell looks set to last, so I'll think of it as my summer holiday beginning early. Screw my exams, screw school. Stella'll twist things round so that I was this hysterical pathetic Clinging Ivy who just couldn't face the fact her boyfriend was tired of her. By nine a.m. on Monday morning, Holly Sykes'll be the Official Windmill Hill High School Laughing Stock. Guaranteed.

An ambulance siren gets closer, more urgent, echoes round the courtyard and stops, like, in mid-sentence ... I rejiggle my duffel bag and get up. Right, where now? Every runaway teenager in England makes a beeline for London, imagining they'll get picked up by a talent scout or fairy godmother, but I'll strike out the opposite way, along the river, towards the Kent marshes; if you grow up in a pub you overhear exactly what sort of scouts and fairies pick up runaway teenagers in London. Maybe I could find a barn or an empty holiday chalet to stay in for a bit. That might work. So, off I set round the front of the hospital. The car park's full of windscreens flashing in the bright sunshine. In the cool shady hospital reception area, I see rows of people smoking and waiting for news.

Funny places, hospitals ...

Holly Sykes and the Weird Shit, Part 2. A few weeks went by, I must've turned eight, and I began to think I'd only dreamt Miss Constantin, 'cause she'd never come back. 'Cept for the fact I didn't know that word she'd called me, "singular" ... I looked it up and wondered how it'd got into my head if Miss Constantin hadn't put it there. To this day I still don't know the answer to that. But then one night in September, after we'd gone back to school, I woke up and knew she was there, and I was more glad than I was scared. I liked being singular. I asked Miss Constantin if she was an angel, and she laughed a little, saying, no, she was human, like me, but she'd learned how to slip out of her own body, and go visiting her friends. I asked if I was one of her friends now, and she asked, "Would you like that?" and I said, Yes, please, more than anything, and she replied, "Then you shall be." And I asked Miss Constantin where she came from, and she said Switzerland. To show off, I asked if Switzerland was where chocolate was invented, and she said I was one of the brightest buttons she'd ever known. From then on she visited me every night, for a few minutes, and I'd tell her a bit about my day, and she'd listen, and sympathize or cheer me up. She was always on my side, like Mam or Brendan never seemed to be. I asked Miss Constantin questions, too. Sometimes she'd give me direct answers, like when I asked her her hair color and she told me "chromium blond," but as often as not she'd sidestep my questions with "Let's not spoil the mystery quite yet, Holly, shall we?"

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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