David Mitchell 's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a well done work of literary fiction, told in three parts. The story takes place in coastal Japan at the end of the eighteenth century (1799). Jacob de Zoet is an innocent young Dutchman who comes to work at the Dutch East India Company, on the artificial island of Dejima. Jacob hopes to work at the post for (5) years as a clerk, so he can earn a lot of money and return home to marry his wealthy fiance. The post is almost like a prison, and his coworkers are corrupt and unsavory characters. Despite the politics and corruption, Jacob is determined to stand firm, refusing to go along various schemes and scams that he finds while auditing the records. Needless to say, Jacob is not very popular.
In part two, Jacob's infatuation with a disfigured, Japanese midwife named Orito Aibagawa moves the story into high gear. She is the daughter of a doctor and a samurai, and both Jacob and one of the translators he befriended are both attracted to the disfigured Orito. Without giving away too much of the story, I'll leave part three to the reader to experience for themselves, and just say the ending did not disappoint.
MY THOUGHTS - The novel was written in the third person, and was not a light read. I received this book in June, and finishing it about a month later, and actually felt glad that I took my time. This was my first David Mitchell novel, and I felt that this book required slow and steady doses for maximum reading pleasure. I loved the vivid historical details, in fact, attention to "every" detail was a strength of this novel. Some parts were a bit slow for me, but the story did have sufficient doses of action, and laugh out loud humor, to hold my interest. Add to that an eccentric group of quirky characters, and colorful descriptions of life on a small island (drinking, gambling, prostitution), made for thoroughly all encompassing historical read.
RECOMMENDED - 4.5/5 stars