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

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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  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #79,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.


“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 tale . . . an 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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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith on July 8 2010
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric D. Nixon on Jan. 11 2011
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful 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: Paperback
I almost gave up on this book the first fifty pages in. Mitchell throws us right into the story without any true preamble. There's even a line, directed to the protagonist but might as well be directed to the reader, about not worrying if you miss some introductions; you have the rest of the stay there to learn everyone's name.

But I persevered and the story starts picking up pretty quickly, even if I did have to go back and re-read the first fifty pages once I got to around page one hundred to reorient myself.

I knew a bit about Dejima and the lives of the Dutch traders, having been to Nagasaki (my favourite place in Japan, which isn't saying much because I was really miserable in Japan, but Nagasaki is beautiful), so that may have helped deal with the initial feeling of impenetrability. And, as you can see by my rating - 5/5 - I'm glad I did. The story is strong and detailed, the characters are all real people and Mitchell, to his credit with a cast so large, does not devolve to caricatures. Even though the story weaves in and out and characters come and go and vanish and reappear suddenly with the focus on them, the story moves well and was easy to follow (after the first fifty pages). If you like literary, historical fiction, I would highly recommend this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Found the book difficult to get into. The author's attention to detail becomes very distracting. As the details often have nothing to do with what is going on, other than an aside. I found it quite annoying. The characters are flat. I think there was maybe 2 characters that I found interesting. The stories within the story is what makes the book somewhat entertaining. I would not recommend the book.
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