The Chimes – Anna Smaill

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(No apologies for the fact that this is the same image as on my Instagram account @bookographic and for the shameless self promo!)

Genre: Dystopian, Literary fiction, Adult

Publication Date: (First published) 12th February 2015

Format: Paperback copy sent to me for review by Sceptre Books via Bookbridgr

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

(from goodreads.com)


Having been on the Man Booker Prize longlist this book was going to be good. I feel as though I had extremely high expectations due to this and also because adult dystopian novels are some of my favourites (Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 are two of my all-time favourite books). Let me just say that this wasn’t a bad book, and I definitely feel as though this is a case of ‘it’s not you it’s me’.

Personally, I found it difficult to get into, mainly because of the writing style. As the story really got going (about a third of the way through) the writing seemed to settle down and it became much more enjoyable and I became much more invested in the story. In the beginning though I found the writing to be very choppy and I find this style quite difficult to read, though it could simply be down to my mindset whilst I was early on in the book.

I did really love the characters though, and as the book progressed I felt much more interested in what was happening to them. Simon and Lucien were so well developed through the novel that it made it much more interesting, and I think that it was the development of Lucien from a mysterious unknown to a fully developed and complex character that really grabbed me. The moments and interaction between the two were wonderful, right from the very beginning, as they are both unique and different characters.

One thing that I feel should be mentioned is that had I not had such a good knowledge of music (better than I thought – but I have played the piano since I was seven) this book would have been extremely confusing. For example, instead of using adverbs such as “quickly” and “slowly”, “presto” and “lento” were used. All simple enough to google, but I find having to search for words whilst I’m reading several times can be tedious, hence why I was relieved about my musical understanding. However, the use of these words definitely aided the development of the world and they enabled me to understand more of the society that they lived in.

I had a clear image of London in my mind whilst I was reading, and Smaill did a fabulous job at creating an atmospheric and unique setting. On the other hand, I struggled to picture the Citadel, though there were aspects to the place that I could picture, so maybe I just wasn’t making links; it was late at night and I really was into the story and wanted to finish…

So I did enjoy this book, but the start definitely put it down for me. Once it really got going after about half way I kept wanting to pick it up and read more, and I was left thinking about it all once it had finished. The ending was slightly too abrupt for my liking, but I liked it overall, especially the sudden twist that it took right at the end. Would I recommend this, despite my rating? Yes. Yes because the writing style wasn’t for me and I can completely see how someone else may fall in love with it. The world is creative and unique, which is always a positive, and the story is complex and fascinating, so it’s well worth a read.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

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