When perusing a google search engine for ‘writers who’ve been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times’ , only the most eclectic group of novelists will appear on your screen. One of those just happens to be David Mitchell – whose inimitable style of prose is more than deserving of the aforementioned praise. An astonishingly consistent writer, who habitually questions the gap between the natural and the supernatural; the realistic and the existential; the perceptible and the incomprehensible.
When his first book Ghostwritten was published – a nine-part interconnected narrative, and a worthy winner of the John llewellyn Rhys Prize – Mitchell was instantly being heralded as the most audacious, ambitious, and inventive young novelist of the twenty first century.
His two subsequent novels – Number9Dream and Cloud Atlas, were both selected for the Booker Prize Short-list. The first about a teenagers frantic search for her absconded father – oscillating between fantasy and reality, and treating the reader to the unremitting iniquities of young love. The latter being littered with the prescience of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, and the brutality of Doestoevsky’s House of The Dead – eventually being adapted into a major motion picture, and leading to his unequivocal selection as the Granta best young Novelist in 2003.
He then wrote Black Swan Green – blessing the reader with such an accurate portrayal of a thirteen year old teenager, that you could feel yourself floating back through time, nostalgic but not envious , reminiscent but not jealous – before completing The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, where the New York Times were quoted as saying ‘Confirms Mitchell as one of the most fascinating and fearless writers alive.’
His event at this years Edinburgh International Book Festival – chaired by Stuart Kelly, and promoted as Transports of Fictional Delight – is about his latest novel The Bone Clocks (his third appearance on the Man Booker Prize short-list). The predominant theme in this supernatural thriller is about life and death – what happens in-between, and can this ‘we all must die’ iron clause actually be rewritten? This seemingly absurd question is made very real because of David Mitchell’s incredible gift for prose. So much so, that on finishing the novel, I began to wonder if death is just a myth, and people simply just disappear into another realm – another form of existence.
The most inspirational thing about David Mitchell’s writing style, is that you can’t really categorize it. It’s too simple to call it fantasy, supernatural, or even touching on unrealism, because by becoming immersed in his words, you can’t help but wonder why we don’t believe the unbelievable, search for the unrealistic, or even open our eyes to what might actually be possible. Perhaps the easiest thing to say is this; It’s very rare for a writer to come along who has such an intuitive gift for storytelling, so let’s just be grateful he’s only forty six.