A Booker finalist and Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize winner, David Mitchell was called “prodigiously daring and imaginative” by Time and “a genius” by the New York Times Book Review.
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.
But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur, until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
©2010 David Mitchell (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
"It’s as difficult to put this novel down as it is to overestimate Mitchell’s virtually unparalleled mastery of dramatic construction, illuminating characterizations and insight into historical conflict and change. Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Despite the audacious scope, the focus remains intimate; each fascinating character has the opportunity to share his or her story. Everything is patched together seamlessly and interwoven with clever wordplay and enlightening historical details on feudal Japan. First-rate literary fiction and a rousing good yarn, too." (Booklist)
“An achingly romantic story of forbidden love . . . [David] Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. . . . A novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between [that] confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive.” (Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review)
It contains some wise and odd, beautiful bits. Shows the possibilities of appreciation for a nation, culture and personality intrinsically different from one's own. Loved it.
Gorgeous! By the final third I gave up listening to this tale in bits and pieces and just let myself enjoy an "all nighter" of brilliant story telling and artistry Both narrators are very gifted as well. I'm so glad I got to hear this performance. Thanks to Mitchell and crew for this winner!
I am sad to say that this is the most poorly narrated audiobook that I have ever heard. ALL of the characters have a strong British accent the japanese character. the Dutch characters everyone, it completely ruined the story for me. Spend your money on the book and you will be aple to cherish the words and create your own voice for these lovely characters
David Mitchell had problems during potty training...his love of describing bowel movements in this book is ridiculous. The story flip flopped all over the place and became boring during several parts. It was like the movie "Reds" with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton: Way too long and tighter editing may have resulted in an interesting story.
The writing of this book is awe inspiring. How he wove the story with all the different languages and idea's and people was a feat. I loved the story of the woman when she was sent to the "nunnery" . One of my favorite moments in the book was when the slave had his life narrated. I was glued to my headphones. The only negative thing about this book is there is nothing uplifting to cling onto and when I went to listen to it again I stopped because I felt a bit depressed.
Best narrator, best story... I only have one hour and 45 minutes to go, and I am so sad that this wonderful book is almost over. The narrator, Jonathan Aris, is the new Frank Muller. I would listen to him read the phone book!
I feel like i have just discovered one of the greatest living novelists and can't wait to read more. Not a word is wasted. A high class read that rewards. Brilliantly read.
Truly...I love good historical fiction, and I will rarely quit reading once I have started. I managed to make it to the end of "The Pillars of the Earth", which I never thought was that great of a novel...but I slogged on through to the end. Where do I begin to describe why I gave up on this book? For starters, I had trouble keeping track of the characters and trying to stay focused on the story. My mind kept wandering during the narration. The description of translation of Dutch to Japanese (and visa versa) didn't make any sense (Japanese asking about English idioms that are supposed to be Dutch), and so forth. I soldiered on to part 2, but finally gave up. In the end (I mean the middle), I still didn't care about Jacob, or the midwife, or the slimy cast of characters that populate this novel enough to keep going.
The narration for this book is great, especially considering the range of languages and accents included, however the story itself is extremely boring. There is very little character development except for long sections of characters telling their stories to other characters, but very little action to give you a sense of who they are. I tried very hard to finish it but just can't get through the final two hours because I just don't care what happens to any of the characters - they barely exist in my mind. The author includes plenty of historical detail, but it's not presented in a particularly interesting or subtle way. I couldn't tell you what the point or plot of this book is and I'm sorry I've wasted as much time as I did listening to it. It's a great example of a writer who can create a poetic turn of phrase but isn't able to create any sub plots or interesting characters. He also has an irritating habit of trying to break up boring dialogue with irrelevant goings-on "A leaf fell from the maple tree," etc. I don't usually review books but I felt so strongly about the blandness of this one that I had to comment. Spend your money elsewhere.
Tell us about yourself! I am a former high school history teacher and now, a semi-retired physician assistant.
It would take me a thousand years to finish this dreadful book. I tried to listen to the more than three hours it took me to rip off my head phones and admit that I had made a mistake buying this book. Neither the reader nor the story held my attention.
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