Regular price: $38.49

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    758
  • 4 Stars
    648
  • 3 Stars
    335
  • 2 Stars
    129
  • 1 Stars
    68

Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    617
  • 4 Stars
    335
  • 3 Stars
    105
  • 2 Stars
    41
  • 1 Stars
    22

Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    509
  • 4 Stars
    371
  • 3 Stars
    149
  • 2 Stars
    64
  • 1 Stars
    28
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

This is why I go after the Booker Prize winners.

Any additional comments?

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!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ilana
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 10-22-11

Good Historical Fiction

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Rachel
  • Hillsborough, NC, United States
  • 07-05-11

Amazing narrator & book, a LITTLE tough to follow

Disclaimer: as I write this, I'm between 2/3 and 5/6 of the way through the book, so I can't speak to the way it's influenced by the ending, as novels inevitably are. So far, though...

...This is truly an amazing novel. When I read that David Mitchell put such research into making sure that everything little bit was historically accurate, so that a single sentence sometimes took him hours to write, it let me listen to this not just as an engaging storyline with romance and corruption and international relations and all the other good things but also as a window into Japan of yore. Jonathan Aris is truly extraordinary in his portrayal of a multinational cast of characters -- even when I had a little trouble understanding which of the names was linked to which country and attendant role in the unfolding political/economic drama, Aris' rotating accents to represent the Irishman, the American, the Prussian, the Japanese, and so on, were both consistent and authentic enough to clear things up considerably.

On a related note, my only criticism of this book is about its viability as an audio-book at all -- specifically, there are a LOT of characters whose different roles are important but whose names are all foreign enough (to me, in this day and age) that it took me several chapters to really understand what it meant when any given person said something. I think part of the problem is that many of them are presented all together, at the beginning, which I think the active and enterprising listener could probably
counter successfully...

...So my bottom line is that this is a great, GREAT audio-book for someone who likes high-level historical fiction, and that it might make for a better listening/understanding experience if one could start out with a printed list of character names or perhaps a hardcopy of the first couple of chapters, just for a visual reference.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Lovely

Honestly, I almost gave up on this book because, in my opinion, the first half was just not all that interesting. That said, I am happy that I stuck with it because the book grows exponentially in complexity. The ending of this book was not predictable, not sappy ... don't really know how to explain it except: perfect.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

extraordinary

a totally satisfying historical fiction plot played out in prose that recalls Rabelais and DylanThomas. Terrific.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Best listen this summer

Very compelling story and superb narration. Hated to finish. Highly recommended.

13 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

History, atmosphere and love

This is a great novel that delves into the Japan of 1799. If you love a story with history and a peek into the Japanese and Dutch culture of that time period, you will enjoy this novel. The only thing that was a little odd was that the narrator would portray a Japanese character with English Cockney accents.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

a wonder, and wonderful, from beginning to end

if mitchell, in the sphere of fine writers, borders on genius, so the two narrators, in their own sphere, border on the same.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Porter
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 07-31-10

The Thousand Voices of narration overkill

Once again, a cast-of-thousands narration has irreparably damaged a major writing effort. As happens in Roxana Ortega's trivializing narration of Jennifer Egan's A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, the narration here of David Mitchell's THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET turns a 19-hour audiobook into an exhausting Babel. Unlike the Egan book, this novel, itself, is a disappointment. C.S. Godshalk's remarkable 1998 KALIMANTAAN (woefully not represented in the Audible library) is a far more compelling tale of Old World travel in the East and devastating cultural clashes in an exotic past. Mitchell's new effort is no CLOUD ATLAS, and nowhere near as good as the superb Dave Eggers' review in the Times might lead you to think. Publisher's Weekly called this Mitchell's "busman's holiday." Exactly. Traditionalism on wheels. Dutch traders in the far-offs. And like Clancy, Mitchell may have sailed into the realms of the monster-maestro whom no one dares approach with a red pencil. Excruciatingly long birth scenes, beheading scenes, other bodily-fluids scenes are flanked by deep descriptions of squalor in early 19th-century Japan. Vivid, sure. So is a stunning sunset. Imagine hearing readers deploy accents and funny voices describing every nook, cranny and hue in the clouds of that sunset. What's the alternative? Check Campbell Scott's reading of Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER. No circus of French accents in Paris, it's a riveting, meditative reading of the book in one voice. Scott serves Miller's art as Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox do not serve Mitchell's. We need them to read the book, not perform it. And this trend to cast-of-thousands narrations is a mistake, as when Disney turned Broadway into a show on ice. It's a small, small world between your ears, with room for two minds – yours and your author's. As a reader co-creates a book, so should a listener co-create that literature on headphones. Even if it does take a THOUSAND AUTUMNS to get to the end.

34 of 55 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Darrell
  • OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, United States
  • 09-28-12

Trade and Treachery in 19th Century Japan

What did you love best about The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet?

This book gives the reader a wonderful window into insular Japan and their relationship with foreigners inhabiting the Dutch Trade mission at Nagasaki. It is a story of love, hesitation, loss, and courage seen through the eyes of a young Dutch clerk and a Japanese midwife as their lives intermingle.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jakob De Zoet was my favorite character as I share both his Dutch ancestry and red hair. Jakob was a man of great principle and integrity who exhibited unexpected courage when most men would have fled. His thirst for knowledge and understanding of the Japanese Culture, and his abiding love for the Mysterious Miss Origato, made him a character with whom I could identify.

Which scene was your favorite?

The death scene in the Magistrates rooms.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was perhaps a little long for a single sitting.

Any additional comments?

A wonderful and informative historical novel.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful