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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

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Unrequited Love Caught In Two Very Flawed Cultures

A lovely escape into the grime and gristle of European and Japanese cultures mixing and manipulating over the politics of commerce.
Glimmers of individual virtue are pitted against cultural chauvinism, with graphic descriptions of the foibles, constraints and violences of both.
A thoroughly enjoyable escape -- like a vacation for the imagination.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 09-11-10

Amazing (but complex)

David Mitchell gives readers who enjoy sweeping historical novels everything for which they could hope: an exotic setting, unique characters, adventure, betrayal, intrigue, sacrifice, romance, maritime conflict, and even a monkey named William Pitt. I loved his characters, who were all individualized and fascinating, yet quite believable.

My only criticism is that I might rather have read this book in print. With lots of characters with unfamiliar names and passing through about 50 years, it is rather complex to keep it all sorted out while listening. But the readers are quite fine.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A book of substance.

Any additional comments?

This was quite a solid story. Not a book with just 'fluff'. It has complexity that is not found in young adult reads. <br/><br/>It is somewhat like the book "A Game of Thrones" or "Pillars of the Earth". It has villains, subplots, complexity, bad things that happen to good people...<br/><br/>Some other books of depth and quality readers who liked this book might also enjoy are:<br/><br/>"The Power of One"<br/>"The Sea Wolf"<br/>"A Prayer for Owen Meany"<br/>"The Virginian" <br/>"Q & A" a.k.a "Slumdog Millionaire" by Vikas Swarup<br/>"Shantaram"<br/>"To Kill A Mockingbird"<br/>"I Captured the Castle"<br/>"Mr American"<br/>"The Winds of War"<br/>

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Marge
  • Alexandria, VA, United States
  • 08-02-10

Starts slowly . . .

but wait it out. A good book about an interesting time. It does scream for a good editor in the early part, and but the book does eventually move and the story is very interesting.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Julie
  • Medical Lake, WA, United States
  • 07-31-10

Interesting story, bad narrator.

I keep trying to listen to this as the story line interests me a lot. Unfortunately, the narrator is extremely irritating. He makes some slurping sound in his throat that is very noticable on the recording. I can't get past that sound to enjoy the book.

14 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fantastic

I love David Mitchell and I think this is one of his best novels. Fantastic story.

Terrific narrators.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Couldn't wait to finish.

I couldn't get interested in the merchant and sailor characters in the beginning of the book, and for me their conversations dragged on and on. I did enjoy the storyline involving the midwife Orito and intrigue of the Shrine. The male narrator had a lovely voice, but I was confused by the use of various English dialects (e.g. Irish) applied to Japanese characters, apparently for variety? The language and translation nuances weren't well conveyed in audio form.

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Left you wanting more

Beautiful narration. The storyline left many details unexamined, but gave great insight to Western trading in Japan.

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  • Performance
  • Story

Narrators both give an incredible performance.

Having enjoyed Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, I had high expectations for this book. While not quite as breathtakingly original as that newer novel, Thousand Autumns is nonetheless a fascinating story, set in a time and place rarely mentioned in Western literature. Though a touch too sentimental at times (for my taste), the details of colonial life and 19th century Japan are beautifully rendered in fluid, natural language.

But the #1 reason I recommend this book are the amazing performances of Jonathan Arid and Paula Wilcox. Both voice actors -- especially Aris -- deliver an astounding range of voices, each distinct and full of realistic color. I was a touch unsure of Aris's Japanese accent at first -- fearing it could slip into caricature -- but Aris (working with a talented, but uncredited, director of some sort, I assume) avoids this pitfall, and instead uses a huge range of accents and mannerisms to reinforce Mitchell's story, in which language, accent, and dialect all play an important role.

In short: listen, enjoy, maybe keep some tissues nearby.

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I just can't get through it.

What disappointed you about The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet?

I bought this book in 2013 and have tried to read it four times. To no avail. Just tedious and I hate the accent given to the Japanese characters. Dare I say racist?

Would you ever listen to anything by David Mitchell again?

Not sure.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Awful rendition of Japanese accents

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet?

I never managed to read more than a third of the book.

Any additional comments?

I know it is too late to return this book. It is a wonderful feature of Audible unlike iTunes which does not permit the return of something less than satisfactory. I just wanted to give voice to my frustration. I am an avid member of Audible and review my credit purchases Very Carefully. I wish someone had given this kind of review before I invested my $15.