What a scrumptious novel! The reader becomes totally immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of eighteenth century Japan. Nothing in this author's style is mundane and the web of stories within stories creates the sensation of becoming a fly on the wall in every scene. Full of adventure, suspense, heroism, and of course, love, this book is the best read of the summer by far.
This was a great historical novel focusing on just a few characters and a short span of years. It tells the tale of Dutch clerk Jacob de Zoet, the pious son of a deacon, and his unexpectedly long stay at the Dutch trading post of Dejima, at the time (late 18th/early 19th century) the West's only contact with Japan. De Zoet is the main character, but the novel switches POVs throughout, with the middle third focusing mostly on Japanese characters. It's a long, complex story full of love, betrayal, and cultural misunderstandings, ending with a naval attack based on an actual historical incident. There are vivid, sometimes literally poetic descriptions of everything from trees and Nagasaki Harbor to the fellows hauling chamber pots, and some quite brilliant internal monologues, which earned this book its Booker Award nomination. If you like historical fiction and character dramas, I highly recommend this one.
Some reviewers complained of long gaps in the recording or missing sections. I don't know what they're talking about; I didn't find any such problems. The narration by Jonathan Aris is very good, as he does various types of accents quite well. (The exception is his American accent, which is horrible, but fortunately there's only one American character who only has a few lines.) Paula Wilcox did an adequate job for Orito, but not so great with male voices. Overall, though, I enjoyed the narration.
A book that has been around for a while and extensively reviewed - what can I add that has not already been conveyed? Mitchell is nothing less than brilliant; considered one of the best writers of our time, and hailed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. From experience, I know that reading Mitchell is always rewarding, but I am no intellect, and that reward (for me) comes from straining my average brain. Though I've been wanting to read this book, it has sat in my library with other formidable reads, until I felt ready for some keen commitment.
Fantastic historical fiction that saturates the senses in the time and culture. The themes of honor and treachery, clash of cultures, and mutual ignorance, during a time of enlightenment and expanding global interests were clearly related through the multitude of events. As I listened, the book played out before me like a grand epic tale on a panoramic scope. The linear structure was easier to follow than Cloud Atlas; the links to his other novels were cleverly woven in, as were recurring themes of continuation. The dialogues were amazing, keeping continuity and clarity of character so realistically, you feel sometimes like an eavesdropper. Mitchell says he worked four years on this book, which was obvious in the details that added dimension and authenticity.
The demands of this book are dealing with the throngs of characters, and long periods of time with the arcing stories. The crowds of people are thrown at you like opening the doors to an audience, and the stories cover not only the trajectory of their plots, but also numerous insertions of observations--that at times present themselves like potholes on the path of the story flow. I found these issues compounded by the narration--not by the narrator, but by experiencing this book audibly. This is one case where I would have preferred reading the text. Mitchell's style of writing, his poetic prose and artistic use of language, make each sentence worth examination; he says so much with every single word.
The narrative shifts from Jacob, to Orito, then back to Jacob; some reviewers mentioned they felt Orito's narrative dragged and wasn't as engaging--I felt the opposite. The monastery seemed foreboding, foreign, and mysterious. Her mad-like musings to the mouse, the pot, the broom, added a mythical and exotic element. Finally, I admit that my average brain sometimes drifted off during parts of this very long book, and I felt the details were arduous. But, that may not be the fault of the author, but rather the result of a mediocre reader tackling superior writing. Highly recommend to those that want to spend some time listening to a beautifully written, unforgettable story, that educates and entertains.
Long time Audible member (8 years, 500+ books). Avid flyfisherman, hunter, bicycler.
I tried. Really I did. But I couldn't finish it. There are innumerable characters, each with unmemorable names, having tedious conversations with seemingly no relevance to the story or the plot. I think the narrator did an amazing job with a multitude of accents, but for me it was virtually impossible to keep track of all the characters, despite his vocal characterizations. If you enjoy hours of inane conversation, punctuated only occasionally by interesting plot elements, take a shot. But I did not enjoy this book, despite my general like of long detailed audiobooks.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This book was recommended by one of the people I follow. I had never read a David Mitchell book before but I do try to read winners of the Booker Prize, which this book won. The story takes place in the 1790s Nagasaki Japan. Jacob De Zoet was a clerk at the Dutch East Indies Company. Japan allowed only the DEI company trading access to Japan. There was a variety of characters from Dutch, Malay, to Japanese. Mitchell painted a picture rich with detail, intriguing characters and oriental mystery, there was depth, humor and subtlety. I felt the middle of the book slowed down and the ending was rushed other wise it was it was paced fairly well. The narrators Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox did a good job. This is a historical novel and the research of the time and place was well done and expertly wove into an interesting story.
This book was just plain fun. I love history and got lots of it here, some for real and some invented, but all fascinating. The characters and situations were so original and new to me. A real saga, and very well read by the narrators.
I'd probably read it. The author is a master, and I'd like to savor his writing. That said, I really enjoyed the audiobook, too.
The escape of Jacob's love, as well as the botched rescue of her.
They were all wonderful.
Jacob de Zoet, of course. He's the one we got to know and follow.
This profile is under my husband's name since Audible merged with Amazon. So just call me Bob. Or wife of Bob. Or the reader in the family. Whatever.
I loved this book. It's beautifully written and completely immerses the reader into its world. I didn't want it to end. Highly recommend!
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
The story begins in 1799 at the Dutch East Indies Company trading post Dejima, in the harbor of Nagasaki, Japan. The Japanese are't allowed to travel outside of Japan, and very few Europeans are tolerated on Japanese soil for fear the Europeans might 'contaminate' Japan with their culture and beliefs. The book is divided in three parts, in the first, we are introduced to a huge cast of characters, too many to remember in fact, who inhabit Dejima, from the sailors and officers to the surgeon Dr Mariner, and the ubiquitous Japanese interpreters (who sometimes double as spies) and of course, our hero, Jacob de Zoet. Although Jacob has promised a young woman back home in Holland that he will return as a rich man and marry her, our young man falls hopelessly in love with a young female student of doctor Mariner's, Orito, a midwife who's appearance is marred by a burn scar which covers one half of her face. Suddenly, shortly after her father dies, Orito is taken away to a mysterious abbey far away in the mountains, and things take a fascinating turn.
Parts of this book were tremendously enjoyable, with bits of prose which shone like little jewels. The second part of the story held me captive throughout. Indeed, taken in separate parts, one could say that Mitchell created a most convincing picture, rich with detail, intriguing characters and mysterious motivations. But taken as a whole, the novel didn't quite hang together properly. More editing would probably have been a good idea for starters, but the third part of the novel told me that the author never quite found his focal point, other than Jacob de Zoet who in the end failed to hold one's interest for long. All the same, this is a very well written historical novel which is well worth discovering. I would say that the audio version is definitely the way to go with this novel, since there are characters with many different accents which the narrator interprets very well, and which helps to understand what could otherwise be a confusing narrative.