Utopia Avenue

Dean hurries past the Phoenix Theatre, dodges a blind man in dark glasses, steps onto Charing Cross road to overtake a slow-moving woman and pram, leaps a grimy puddle and swerves into Denmark Street where he skids on a sheet of black ice.

Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell, Sceptre 2020

I really think that David Mitchell is my favourite male author. While Utopia Avenue wasn’t my favourite (“yes, you did your homework when it comes to how music is created, I don’t really care”), it was still a book I spent my nights on opposed to the usual screen time.

It felt like it was a character study. Of people (in the music business) during a certain era in history, but also of the era itself. The USA and England can be compared to Cinderella and one of her siblings: young, fresh and exciting versus jealous drudgery.

Jasper de Zoet (as far as I know the first time Mitchell refers to characters from other novels) delivers the eerie, magical realistic touch to the story. Is he mentally unwell – and if so, in what way? – or is there more between hell and earth? I felt like it both lifted up and brought down the story. Any more would provide spoilers, and of course Mitchell manages to interweave it thusly that anything else wouldn’t have worked.

It’s a book like an opera: if those come with drug abuse, celebrity house parties and detailed descriptions of jam sessions. After having written this, I feel like reading it for a second time. Make of that what you will.

The Bone Clocks

I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolaty eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh and, God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.

Even though his motives are getting more familiar with every book you read by him – does this man love time travel and parallel worlds – I can’t ignore a David Mitchell offering.

As per usual, there’s seemingly random people connected in seemingly random ways, throughout time and space on earth. It all starts on the thin line between ‘Is there something out there’/people’s delusions, but – as Mitchell does – it erupts into some very fantastic science fiction closer to the ending. Don’t bother with this story if you prefer your stories doubting, this author likes to jump around over that line.

But there’s just something about how he creates his characters and their surroundings that makes me want to follow along. So, yes, carry on, doing what you do. For the time travel/’consider this afterlife’/’it’s all connected’ fans, you can’t go wrong with this author.

The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell, Alfred A. Knopf 2014

Slade House

Whatever Mum’s saying’s drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds.

Krijgt die man het toch maar mooi voor elkaar om van één gegeven een boek te maken. Er gebeuren Vreemde Dingen in een Vreemd Huis, door de jaren heen. Elke negen jaar, en de lezer mag mee kijken.

Niet Mitchell’s sterkste (ik ben een fan), maar zijn stijl en controle over dat waar je zo lekker kippenvel/shivers down your spine van krijgt, zorgen er toch voor dat je je niet helemaal bekocht voelt. Er is toch weer mysterie en mythologie en dat wat ik het Kippenvel?! einde noem: is het nu echt goed afgelopen of zijn we in slaap gesust?

Het voelt een beetje als een tussendoortje van de auteur, en kan dan zo ook als het beste beschouwd worden. Niet voor de eerste ontmoeting, maar voor de (passieve) fan.

Slade House, David Mitchell, Alfred A. Knopf 2015

Black Swan Green

Do not set foot in my office.

How do you review a book in which “just” life happens? Teenage life, to up the ante?

In this semi-autobiographical bildungsroman (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) the reader looks over the shoulder and into the mind of Jason Taylor, a child in the early eighties. At first he’s a floater, not a hero but not a loser either. Things happen and he sinks to the bottom of the food chain. Bullying wasn’t more or less cruel in past years, it still destroys a life.

I really like David Mitchell’s work, how complicated and intricate the story lines are. With some authors it’s risky of them to move from adult to YA/teenager stories, but with Black Swan Green it never feels like Mitchell keeps his foot on the brake or dumbed down his style. There is a feeling of magic realism to all of it, without any hint of the supernatural. The stories of the ordinary, viewed through a new lens.

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd 2006