- 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: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Paperback – Mar 8 2011
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
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 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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Top Customer Reviews
`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. And the ending? I think it's best to read the novel to appreciate the context.
`Looking backwards, Jacob sees pages from the months and years ahead.'
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.
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.
The novel crosses the boundaries of style, it is a love story, it is partly adventure, partly disturbing fantasy and there is a great deal of mystery to it and the book takes a very dark turn which isn't foretold by the opening chapters. It is, however, at heart a historical fiction and very well researched at that and as with AS Byatt's Children's Book which made the shortlist last year, one can't tell whether the book idea gave rise to the research of whether the book itself became just a vessel for displaying the research. If I was in Britain I would put a tenner on Mitchell winning the booker not because I think it's going to be the best book of the bunch (I'm far too early into my reading to make that kind of estimation) but because I think having been nominated and lost twice already, the judges may feel it is time to reward Mitchell for his course of work rather than for this novel in particular.