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.
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.
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This is a very good David Mitchell book. It is a straightforward historical novel, as compared to Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten, or The Bone Clocks. (But that doesn't mean there aren't some Mitchellian "features." Notice especially the presence of a particular physician in this book.)
The story features adventure, mystery, love, and Mitchell's wonderful writing style. If you like Mitchell, you will like this. It may not be your favorite of his (it isn't mine), but I doubt you will be disappointed.
The narration is as good as it gets. Jonathan Aris is a master of voices and gives each character a singular voice. Paula Wilcox is similarly talented. Paula narrates the chapters with mostly female characters--and this makes the listening experience extra good. Male narrators attempting to sound like women often ruin the audio experience for me. This team approach eliminates that issue.
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.