Ooooo David Mitchell!
I do love your voices! They are just about perfect for audiobooks, which is how I’m reading it. Or receiving it? The verb choice for the act of engaging with a story seems increasingly fluid for me as I often start a book on paper, continue it aurally and finish it in an e-reader.
Anyway. I digress.
So far I’ve loved Holly Sykes, the teenage runaway. She has been thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to following her life.
Hugo Lamb, the broadly sociopathic Cambridge undergraduate I was less enamoured of. I don’t think I was necessarily meant to like him but I found his language a little too forced and he lacked authenticity for me. As a Cambridge graduate myself, I don’t think I met anyone like him or his companions. Which may simply bode well for my mental state!
Currently, I’m on the third section. The Wedding Bash. Bless Ed Brubeck in the opening section: the gentlemanly knight on a rusty bike. I’m far less happy with him in this section: he seems a different character, as desperate to leave Holly and their child as he was to find her earlier. Maybe it will be explained. I’m willing to give Mitchell time.
I’m also loving the recurrence here of characters from and references to Mitchell’s other work: Hugo Lamb is the obnoxious cousin of Black Swan Green‘s Jason; Ed Brubeck writes for Spyglass from Cloud Atlas; and Elijah D’Arnoq from the Chatham Islands may be a recurrence of Mr D’Arnoq from the same novel, Cloud Atlas.
This interweaving of characters is undoubtedly fun – with a genuine penny-dropping moment when Hugo Lamb revealed the connection. But it’s nothing new. Mitchell himself did it throughout Cloud Atlas and it’s actually rather common in fantasy writing. Which brings me rather neatly to the fantasy elements. The are the weaker part of the novel for me. Mitchell is great at narrative voice and character, a natural ventriloquist. The Horologists and the Anchorites, for me, got in the way of the human voices and human dramas. And this is me speaking as a self-confessed fan of fantasy.
Again, maybe Mitchell will mould it all together.