The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Imagine a world in harmony, the days ordered by a music that everyone shares. It sounds idyllic but this order comes at a cost. The harmony can’t account for everything and can’t safeguard everyone. Outside the citadel where the chimes are made and sent out across the country, order erases the individual through the decimation of story.

Simon, not much more than a boy, is told by his dying mother to go to London in search of a woman. His mother says this woman will help Simon, but she doesn’t say how or why and with every passing day the music of the chimes soothes, distracts and trains thought in one shared direction. Everyone reminds Simon to ‘keep your memories close’ but he must do more than that to understand his mother’s mission and remind everyone of their past.

The plot is of course more complex than this, but to say more would spoil the journey. Though it took me a few pages to feel immersed in the vibrant world of the novel, once I was there I was hooked and quickly read to the end.

Though the novel has much to say to adults, placing memory at the very heart of narrative and identity, The Chimes reads like a young adult/cross-over novel. This isn’t to denigrate it, this is simply to describe my feelings as I read it.

I found The Chimes gripping, I enjoyed unravelling the various threads of the book but the mysteries uncovered weren’t revelations for anyone outside of the novel; there was nothing that challenged my world view or questioned my outlook. I had fun, though.

If dystopian fantasy with young protagonists sounds like your kind of thing, or you like mudlarking or music (or all of these), then you will definitely enjoy The Chimes.

Next week I’m taking a break from the Man Booker 2015 (after all, are prizes always the best arbiters of taste?) and will be reading The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.