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

    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 656 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Then one day our school's most gifted bully, Susan Hillage, got me as I walked home from school. Her dad was a squaddie in Belfast and, 'cause my mam's Irish, she knelt on my head and wouldn't let me go unless I admitted we kept our coal in the bathtub and that we loved the IRA. I wouldn't, so she threw my bag into a tree, and told me she was going to make me pay for her dad's mates who got killed in Belfast, and that if I told anyone, her dad's platoon'd set fire to my pub and my family'd all roast and it'd all be my fault. I was no pushover, but I was only little, and Susan Hillage had pulled all the right levers. I didn't tell Mam or Dad what'd happened, but I was worried sick about going to school the next day and what might happen. But that night, when I woke up in the warm pocket of my bed and Miss Constantin's voice came, it wasn't just her voice in my head—she was actually there, in person, sitting in the armchair at the end of my bed saying, "Wakey, wakey, sleepyhead." She was young, and had white-gold hair, and what must've been rose-red lips were purple-black in the moonlight, and she wore a gown thing. She was beautiful, like a painting. Finally I managed to ask if I was dreaming and she replied, "I'm here because my brilliant, singular child was so unhappy tonight, and I want to know why." So I told her about Susan Hillage. Miss Constantin said nothing until the end, when she told me that she despised bullies of all stripes, and did I want her to remedy the situation? I said, Yes, please, but before I could ask anything else Dad's footsteps were coming down the corridor and he'd opened the door, and the light from the landing shone in my eyes, dazzling me. How was I going to explain Miss Constantin sitting in my bedroom at, like, one o'clock in the morning? But Dad acted like she wasn't even there. He just asked me if I was okay, saying he'd heard a voice, and sure enough, Miss Constantin wasn't there. I told Dad I must've been dreaming and talking in my sleep.

Which was what I ended up believing. Voices are one thing, but women in gowns, sitting there? The next morning I went to school as usual, and didn't see Susan Hillage. Nobody else did, either. Our headmaster hurried late into school assembly and announced that Susan Hillage had been hit by a van while she cycled to school, that it was very serious and we had to pray for her recovery. Hearing all this, I felt numb and cold, and so much blood left my head that the school hall sort of folded up around me, and after, I had no memory even of hitting the floor.

The Thames is riffled and muddy blue today, and I walk and walk and walk away from Gravesend towards the Kent marshes and before I know it, it's eleven-thirty and the town's a little model of itself, a long way behind me. The wind unravels clouds from the chimneys of the Blue Circle factory, like streams of hankies out of a conjurer's pocket. To my right, the A2 roars away over the marshes. Old Mr. Sharkey says it's built over a road made by the Romans in Roman times, and the A2's still how you get to Dover, to catch the boat to the Continent, just like the Romans did. Pylons march off in double file. Back at the pub, Dad'll be hoovering the bar, unless Sharon's doing it to get my three pounds. The morning's gone muggy and stretched, like it does in triple maths, and the sun's giving me eye-ache. I left my sunglasses in Vinny's kitchen, sat on the draining board. Fourteen ninety-nine they cost me. I bought them with Stella, who said she'd seen the same sunglasses on Carnaby Street for three times the price so I thought I was getting a bargain. Then I imagine myself strangling Stella and my arms and hands go all stiff, like I'm actually doing it.

I'm thirsty. By now Mam will've told Dad something 'bout why Holly went off in a teenage strop, but I bet a million quid she will've twisted it all. Da'll be joking 'bout "The Girls' Bust-up" and PJ and Nipper and Big Dex'll nod and grin like the shower of tossers they are. PJ'll pretend to read from the Sun. "It says here, 'Astronomers at the University of Bullshitshire have just found new evidence that, yes, teenagers really are the center of the universe.' " They'll all cackle, and Good Old Dave Sykes, everyone's favorite landlord, will join in with his you're-so-witty-I-could-wet-myself laugh. Let's see if they're still laughing by Wednesday when I haven't shown up.

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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