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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Paperback – Mar 8 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (March 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676979300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676979305
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.7 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #23,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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David Mitchell reinvents himself with each book, and it's thrilling to watch. His novels like Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas spill over with narrators and language, collecting storylines connected more in spirit than in fact. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, he harnesses that plenitude into a more traditional form, a historical novel set in Japan at the turn into the 19th century, when the island nation was almost entirely cut off from the West except for a tiny, quarantined Dutch outpost. Jacob is a pious but not unappealing prig from Zeeland, whose self-driven duty to blurt the truth in a corrupt and deceitful trading culture, along with his headlong love for a local midwife, provides the early engine for the story, which is confined at first to the Dutch enclave but crosses before long to the mainland. Every page is overfull with language, events, and characters, exuberantly saturated in the details of the time and the place but told from a knowing and undeniably modern perspective. It's a story that seems to contain a thousand worlds in one. --Tom Nissley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (South Asia and Europe)
Finalist for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 

Finalist for the Walter Scott Prize
Longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 

A Globe and Mail Best Book 
A New York Times Notable Book 

“A page-turner...[David] Mitchell’s masterpiece; and also, I am convinced, a masterpiece of our time.” Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“An achingly romantic story of forbidden love...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
“The novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction has published a classic, old-fashioned epic of sacrificial love, clashing civilizations and enemies who won’t rest until whole family lines have been snuffed out.” Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“By any standards, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a formidable marvel.” James Wood, The New Yorker
“A beautiful novel, full of life and authenticity, atmosphere and characters that breathe.” Maureen Corrigan, NPR

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This novel opens in 1799, on the island of Dejima in Nagasaki Bay, where the Dutch East India Company was the sole trading point between Europe and the isolationist Japanese. Young Dutch clerk Jacob de Zoet has been tasked with stamping out corruption.

`The Company desires me, sir, to be thorough in all things.'

Dejima is a small island and is inhabited only by translators, prostitutes and traders. Access to mainland Japan is over a small fiercely guarded bridge. The Europeans resident on Dejima are isolated in every sense.

Jacob de Zoet is drawn to Orito, a midwife who has found favour with Hiroshima's governor and has been permitted greater contact with the Europeans as a consequence. Orito is working with Dr Marinus, the resident physician. Jacob and Orito fall in love, but culture and politics keep them separated. Jacob falls out of favour with his superior, and Orito is sold to a shrine after her father dies. These separate events, and what follows, serve to underline the difference between two very different worlds.

`Details beget facts, and facts, judiciously sent forth, become assassins.'

Meanwhile, world events are changing the balance of power between the Dutch and the British. This becomes clear when Captain John Penhaligon of the British Navy sails into Dejima with a view to dislodging the Dutch.

`Everything is happening too slow and too fast and all at once.'

This is a wonderful work of fiction. The main stories are those of Jacob de Zoet and Orito and to a lesser extent John Penhaligon. While the underlying historical basis is solid, not all facts and dates are accurate. But it doesn't matter, not for this story. This novel has its own rules, and is enhanced by the rich detail in the writing.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of David Mitchell since Ghostwritten came out more than a decade ago. I await every new novel with a total sense of wonder, curious to find out what new direction he will take, what stylistic challenge he'll attempt, and how he will astound me anew.

With "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," he has amazed me once again. In many ways, it reminds you of a classic 19th century novel, rich in description, characterization, language, and storytelling. However, not being a fan of historic novels myself, it really didn't matter, because, once I started the book, I was putty in Mitchell's hands.

This book is so rich and wonderful, it begs you to take your time and absorb each and every word, while driving you forward with spectacular storytelling. Pick up this book when you have time to spare, plan to take a week or two and rediscover what great writing is all about.

David Mitchell has been called a genius. I will go further and call him the best novelist writing today.
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By Harrison Koehli TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 30 2011
Format: Paperback
From the first chapter, I was hooked. Mitchell has a way of making mood and sense of place tangible, and from those opening pages, I was transported. To the places, the time, and the characters' inner worlds. I didn't know what to expect when I started this book, not having read any of Mitchell's works before. But I don't have a single negative thing to say about this book. It moved me, gripped me with suspense, made me laugh, consult my dictionary, and really appreciate this man's way with words. I agree with other reviewers that, yes, it is an 'entertainment', not necessarily a masterpiece, but the characters are so well presented - their dialogue, uniqueness, flaws, and virtues - and the plot so well-executed that it doesn't really matter. And the final pages were perfect. It's just a great book, all around.
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Format: Hardcover
Jacob de Zoet is a clerk in the Dutch East Indies Company stationed in Dejima, a small trading post near Nagasaki in the closed and highly secretive Japan of the 18th century. The port is effectively Japan's only conduit to the outside world and the Westerners are treated with great suspicion, spies are everywhere and Christianity is forbidden. When Jacob falls in love with Orito, midwife and assistant to the grouchy Dr Marinus, he is pulled into the murk and mire that is the politics of a closed feudal society. Things take a turn for the worse when Orito is purchased by a darkly powerful Lord Abbot and emprisoned in his shrine at Mount Shiranui.

David Mitchell is known for playing around with narrative structure as with his excellent book Cloud Atlas and in this book he manages to create instantly distinguishable voices for the Dutch and the Japanese and when the British, who had been fighting on and off with the Dutch for a couple of centuries, finally arrive on the scene, their entrance is felt as that of an alien nation. His prose is, however, far from perfect and there are devices he uses which pop-up with annoying regularity. For instance Mitchell likes to describe two things at once almost as a way of creating a feel of momentum and so there are conversations that take place during a card game, during a game of billiards, during an execution and so on with alternating lines between the different narratives and it's repeated use began to irk me. Also Mitchell's prose verges on the poetic which is perfectly okay but when towards then end of the novel, a description of Japan descends into actual rhyme it is pretty painful.
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