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)
I found myself utterly absorbed in this book. i felt it moved slowly for the first 1/3, but it was still absorbing--like lying by a stream. Then all of a sudden it sped up, then slowed down again, which was unexpected but by this point I loved the characters and was glad to hear more action from them. I love Orito and wish I could be friends with her.
There are definitely parts that are...for lack of a better word...gross (explicit medical descriptions) but I didn't find them so frequent as to distract from the story. I thought the narrators did a great job, and the voices they used really helped me keep characters straight.
And now it's been a few days since I finished the story...and I miss Jacob!
OK, so I didn't want to read the Steig books as my "big" summer read, so I went with the Mitchell book. The other reviewers do a good job of critically reviewing, so I am just going to go from the gut. This book is like an opera. Yes, it's good, worthy, lyric..., but can't say that I wasn't happy when it was over. I am not a fan of big, thick books unless there is a reason they need be so long. It's almost like someone gave Mitchell a thick, blank journal, and his task was to fill it. If you are looking for a good, long read, try "Cutting for Stone." It has characters, history and a story that keep thing interesting so you are just waiting for the end!
I've been listening to audio books for years and have been an audible subscriber for ? 10 years maybe? A long time anyway.
A bit long and didn't end the way I would've preferred. Oh well. Good voices from the narrators.
The narrators do a wonderful job with the many voices and characters, making this a much better listen than reading it alone. Great fun, and fascinating history is learned too.
I loved "Cloud Atlas" and thought it was the best book I've listened to in years. I could not wait to listen to Thousand Autumns...but perhaps this book is best read in hardcopy. I could not keep the names and characters straight. All of the names, of course, were very foreign to me - Japanese and Dutch, pronounced with an accent. I had to start over once I realized that Yakob Dessert was the title character. Duh! :-P
There were not many likable characters in this book. While I felt that Mitchell set up a very scary scenario, it fell flat after that. I was happy and relieved when the British showed up! Names I understood and could keep track of!
At the end, chunks of time passes without plot or narrative. Uh.. What happened? Nothing worthy of mentioning in 11 years? Or more?
I was disappointed, not Mitchell's best effort or the best book to hear either.
No one can argue that David Mitchell can write well. But I would make a strong argument that all his prose accounts for next to nothing in this story of love that isn't convincing, friendships that have no foundation and history that is more focused on grossing out than informing and entertaining. Skip it. Want old Japan? Read (or listen to) James Clavell.
Can't figure out how this one made the NY Times Best Sellers list. I gave it about a 3.5 hour listen and decided to cut my losses. It drones on and on and I was never able to figure out where it might be going. I rarely chuck a book yet this one was too dull, the names to difficult to remember, the plot too muddy, and the accents to absurd to bother with.
The historical setting of this novel is facinating and well researched. I really felt enmeshed in the time period. Unfortunately the story lacks momentum and/or maybe the portrayal of the difficulties of early 19th century life was a little too realistic for me. The naration is fine but the large cast of foreign names made it a bit difficult to follow as an audio book. My interest stalled out after listening to the first of three parts and I switched over to another book.
I'm not sure what couldn't catch my attention, but I simply couldn't get attached to the story. It was dull.
Exceptionally well-written historic fiction given first-rate narration. I had read the book before I listened to the audio; the performances effectively augment and clarify Mitchell's prose. Comic, romantic and epic.
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