Review: Slade House by David Mitchell

Time is,
Time was,
Time is not

11221460_889655257754156_5258152833153975201_nWhat a bonus it is to have a new David Mitchell book only a year after the incredible The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell started this story on twitter but became obsessed with the story he had started and needed to see it through. The result is a ghost story in the hands and imagination of David Mitchell with is scary, compelling and amazing.

Some authors when they right shorter fiction can dilute themselves but with David Mitchell it is the opposite. Instead everything you love about David Mitchell is distilled into a story you will have to try very hard not to read in one go. Regardless of this book being a third of the length of The Bone Clocks or Cloud Atlas all the elements that make a David Mitchell novel something outstanding are all here. The four parts of the novel each have four distinct narrators and styles. Each part is set nine years apart and David Mitchell captures each different time as only he can. And despite there only being 233 pages David Mitchell’s imagination still soars.

Slade House is both a classic ghost story and a reinterpretation for the 21st century. Firmly set within the David Mitchell universe fans will love spotting all the different connections and there is even a hint of where David Mitchell will go next. If you haven’t read him before this is the perfect starter. All the wondrous flavours and tastes are here to relish and enjoy. I promise you you will be addicted in no time.

Buy the book here…

Christmas for Literature Lovers

AmnesiaThere are so many great books published each year. Here are my favourite 2014 literary novels. They’re the best I’ve read, with the exception of The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – which I’ll write about soon. You will have other selections (and we’d love to hear them) but these are my Christmas picks.

(I’ve mentioned some picture books and novels for children in previous posts

http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/christmas-collectibles/2014/11;

http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/gothic-tales-for-christmas/2014/11)

Peter Carey is in scintillating form with Amnesia (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin). Amnesia breaks into brilliant new directions, ingenious and daring like Carey’s exceptional, My Life as a FakeJournalist Felix Moore is writing a book about Gaby Baillieux, who graduated from hacking to cyber-activism and possible terrorism against America. Carey takes us between Melbourne, Sydney, the Hawkesbury River and the 1942 Battle of Brisbane – where Australians fought the Americans in the streets.  His knowledge and insight penetrates and interprets recent Australian history around the White Australia Policy, Pine Gap, politicians Jim Cairns and Gough Whitlam and The Dismissal, as well as America’s ‘murder’ of Australian democracy. Carey crafts this into a fascinating work and even throws in asides about steampunk and artist Sidney Nolan.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Sceptre) is structured in the adventurous style that Mitchell used in Cloud Atlas, a roam Bone Clocksthrough a wide period of time, including into the future. The fantastical elements are seeded brilliantly throughout the early chapters of The Bone Clocks. The character of Holly Sykes links the parts, although they may not be told in her voice and she is quite a peripheral character in some sections. There are some Australian characters and some parts are set here: Rottnest Light is compared with the reappearing hill in Through the Looking Glass, for example.

One of my favourite sections profiles the fading writer, Crispin Hershey, a famous and respected literary writer, whose world is imploding because his writing quality and output has dropped. He takes revenge on a critic who pans his latest book with dire results. In one scene someone tells him about his plan to set Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North to music. Holly is feted as an author in this part of the book.

I love novels about writers.

Blazing WorldI also love novels about art and The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre) is the best I’ve read this year. Under-recognised artist, New Yorker, Harriet Burden decides to test whether art created by males is valued more highly than art by women so she undertakes an audacious experiment. Over time, she collaborates with three male artists but the resulting works are shown in the males’ names. Recognition seems to be far greater for these works than for her own, even though her artistic stamp is visible. The characterisation, ideas about identity and descriptions of the artworks are phenomenal.

Other ‘types’ of novels that I love are about Japan. David Mitchell wrote a stunner several years ago, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and I reviewed Mark Henshaw’s  2014 The Snow Kimono (Text) here http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/the-snow-kimono/2014/09

Snow Kimono

I was a little ambivalent about reading The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape) because the marketing and reviews rightly focused on the plot of High Court judge Fiona Maye’s case about ‘almost-man’ (Adam is almost eighteen) from a Jehovah’s Witness background who refuses a blood transfusion to stabilise his rare leukaemia. This certainly is the hub of the novel and McEwan skilfully brings it to life without sentiment but the novel’s elegant writing and insight into Fiona’s life is the exquisite packaging around this important issue, which makes it a fine literary work. It also revolves around music – the other type of novel I love.

Children Act

Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

the-bone-clocksAfter only reading Cloud Atlas I was already in awe of David Mitchell so I dove straight into his new novel at the first available opportunity. And once again was swept away by the storytelling, the language and the imagination.

The book has been described as “his most Cloud Atlas-y novel since the global phenom Cloud Atlas” and I can’t wait to read his other books. The structure is very similar although doesn’t cascade back again like Cloud Atlas did. This book reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman however David Mitchell’s writing writing elevates the novel to a new level. This could easily be classified a genre novel like a Gaiman or Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August but the depth and extent of Mitchell’s writing does separate him and means his books get the literary fiction tag instead of science fiction.

The novel opens in 1984 in England. We meet Holly Sykes, aged 15, who has run away from home. In the process Holly becomes part of a chain events outside her, and our, comprehension. Holly inadvertently makes a promise the consequence of which will have repercussions for many lives.

The story then jumps 7 years and we appear to start again. Like Cloud Atlas it feels like a whole new story until links between them slowly bubble to the surface and a tiny bits of the truth begins emerging. At this stage, hardly even half way through the book I was totally in love with this novel. I knew I didn’t want it to end and just wanted to continue being lost.

Mitchell keeps jumping forward into the future and other people who are a party of Holly’s story. Each piece reveals a tiny bit more of the bigger picture but is also wonderfully self-contained. I would take a single novel from one of these stories any day. To have them all join up together is even more special and indicative of the genius that David Mitchell is. The climax to the novel tests the limits of your belief but in David Mitchell you trust. And just when you think the story may have reached too far past the incredible Mitchell brings you back to a compelling and evocative conclusion.

David Mitchell fans will absolutely love this book and it will definitely create new ones too. There are references and characters from other books tying everything together into the David Mitchell universe. As a new fan of Mitchell I am going to dive straight into another novel because I am just in awe of his writing and need to get back to his universe as soon as I possible can.

Buy the book here…