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The Chimes Hardcover – 12 Feb 2015

3.7 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (12 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444794523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444794526
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description



To call The Chimes striking is I dare say to underplay what might be the most distinctive debut of the decade. (

SUPERB... intriguing, ambitious and strikingly written. (James Kidd, Independent on Sunday)

The Chimes is a remarkable debut. It's inventive, beautifully written, and completely absorbing. I highly recommend it. (Kevin Powers, author of THE YELLOW BIRDS)

A genuinely originalnovel that has all the tension of a well-told, gripping thriller, but which is elevated well above the ordinary by its shining, lyrical language. The author has created a believable, consistent and vivid world... (Clare Morrall)

Cleverly orchestrated and poignantly conveyed throughout. (Guardian)

The novel is hypnotic, melancholic and requires concentration, but it builds to an incredibly tense and emotionally satisfying climax that rewards all the effort. (Elle)

Smaill is a former musician with a book of poetry already to her name. The Chimes has strong echoes of both these influences as we're taken on a strange and lyrical journey through a dystopian England . . . The intrinsic links between music and memory suffuse this dreamy narrative . . . the idiosyncratic world [that] Smaill has lovingly created using melodic and musical syntax - her narrative style brimming with invention and nuance. (The Big Issue)

The pleasure lies in getting to grips with the rules of this eerie dystopia and the unusual vocabulary Smaill has minted to describe it. (Metro)

Atmospheric, intensely-imagined strangeness (Daily Mail)

Strangely compelling (Sainsbury's Magazine)

A dazzling debut piece of fantasy that marries great writing with compelling narrative. And the world Smaill has invented, where memory has been replaced by music and people cling to objects that link them to their pasts, is brilliantly imagined.... a serious book with serious talent behind it. (New Zealand Herald)

Magical, tender, thought provoking and stunningly imaginative. (Lindsay Hawdon, author of JAKOB'S COLOURS)

Dystopian fiction but not quite as we know it... Smaill's particular melodious inventiveness makes her story her own. (Independent)

Anna Smail's ambition fiction debut is a strange, compelling tale; full of musical metaphors and striking imagery, it is wildly imaginative and challenging. (Choice Magazine)

An exciting debut, a book full of rhythm, energy and melody... There's no doubt Smaill has created a distinctive and impressive debut, one that dares to create its own music. (The List)

An enthralling read. (The Lady)

lyrical debut (Sunday Express)

This is a story that rivets us from the beginning but, for those wanting more, there are delicious depths that change an excellent story into an equally excellent thought provoking fable. As if that isn't enough, it also convinces us that Anna is a very clever lady. ... hugely compelling ... Oh yes, this is definitely a 'Wow!' book. (The Bookbag)

For a story about music, The Chimes is a triumph on the printed page.

(SFX Magazine)

Cleverly orchestrated (Guardian)

Entrancingly poetic and engagingly plotted, this is a story that brims with heart and soul. (Kirkus reviews)

Book Description

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2015 MAN BOOKER PRIZE. A stunning debut composed of memory, music, love and freedom, The Chimes pulls you into a world that will captivate, enthral and inspire.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julia Flyte TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 April 2015
Format: Hardcover
The Chimes is a fantastically imaginative novel. It's set in a future London, when a cataclysmic event has completely re-set our way of living. People have lost the ability to read and write and they can only retain personal memories by physically carrying them around with them. They communicate in music and also use music as a way to physically navigate their way around. The book is narrated by an orphan named Simon, who gradually realises that in a world where memories are power, he has abilities that others do not.

Almost every review that I've read talks about how difficult this book is to read. It's true that it has a very specific vocabulary but I didn't find it particularly hard to get into - and I swear I'm not coming at it from an intellectual high ground. Your average Booker nominee is much heavier going than The Chimes. Don't let its reputation put you off! There are plenty of books set in a dystopian future where the reader is initially unclear about what's happening and how the world operates eg The Wool Trilogy: Wool, Shift, Dust or The Road.

When I was learning French at school, my teacher told me that the trick to learning to read in another language is not to get hung up on understanding every word you read. Read for general understanding and don't focus on the details. Trust yourself to understand more than you think you can. That's pretty much how to approach The Chimes. When it starts you wonder what the hell is going on, but very quickly you will adapt, I promise.

I do have some suggestions.
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By Liz Barnsley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult review to write. I’m not sure I’ve read a novel quite like this before, certainly not one that has had me back and forth such a lot. I’m definitely highly recommending it simply because it was so different and so beautifully written that I think I would like everyone to read it and see for themselves.

Honestly I nearly gave up on it early on. This is a book that rewards perserverance – initially it is very odd, lyrical prose to go with a lyrical tale but it was difficult to grasp, hard to hang onto and for a while made almost no sense to me. It was very disjointed and dreamlike, turns out for very good reason so stick with it and I promise that the pay off is beautiful. Simply beautiful.

Simon arrives in London not really sure why he is there. Memories fade and are rediscovered through objects in the memory bag that all carry with them. He meets new friends and slowly discovers his own purpose. This is a world of music not words, a strange and often frightening place, but fascinating, alluring and gracefully imagined. The mythology and depth to the world building is magnificent – a slow burn of a tale that will stay with you through the night and play on your mind.

Constructing and building such an elegant story as this one is a terrific accomplishment, I was not surprised to discover later that the author is a poet as well as now a novelist, the whole thing IS poetry in a way and whilst I thought for a while that it wasnt going to be for me I am SO glad I just kept reading. Because as things clarify, this is an uplifting and intriguing read that I’m sure will remain with me for a long time to come.

Highly Recommended

Happy Reading Folks!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A few years ago when I decided to tackle David Foster Wallace's brick-sized novel Infinite Jest I stumbled across a blog post called `How To Read Infinite Jest'. One of the tips was `persevere to page 200', after which it went on to explain what the stumbling blocks would be right up until that threshold, and why. I took that advice on board, battled on to page 200 and went on to read what is now my favourite book of all time.

The same principle should apply to "The Chimes", a novel which, despite being considerably shorter than IJ, does require some commitment from its readers at first - commitment, and a little patience. Set in a strange, vaguely familiar version of London "The Chimes" tells the story of Simon, a young man suddenly alone in a world in which the written word is banned and memories quickly fade away. So far, you could be forgiven for thinking that Anna Smaill's debut novel is just another dystopian story - a young protagonist, an oppressive regime, a world to save. But the innovative writing style will soon signal that this isn't a The Hunger Games type of book; instead of snappy dialogue and easy-to-read chapters, readers will find themselves faced with characters who speak a unique language based on musical terminology. "Tacet" replaces "silence", "suddenly" becomes "subito" and "quickly" turns into "presto". It takes a while to adjust, and there is no glossary to help readers unfamiliar with musical terminology, or with at least a smattering or Italian and Latin. Such readers will have to resort to googling. In other words: tough.
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