Saturday, July 31, 2010

99 - The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet; David Mitchell



















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
(review copy)

21 comments:

  1. I have not yet read this one, but I enjoyed Black Swan Green and Cloud Atlas.

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  2. This is one I think I'd really like to read. Great review!

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  3. I'm really looking forward to reading this once it becomes available at my library.

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  4. This sounds wonderful, but I think my life would have to be calmer than it is right now to tackle it. Great review!

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  5. This novel is near the top of my pile. I've been intending to read Mitchell for years, but I still haven't. I'm looking forward to this one, and I'm glad to see you enjoyed it!

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  6. I have not read Mitchell at all and maybe should start with this one. It sounds as you say not a light read and I hope I will be able to get it soon.

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  7. I've been meaning to read this one. I had heard that it is a heavy, involved read and I guess that kind of put me off a little. But it does sound wonderful - I think I'll try and get it from the library. Great review :-)

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  8. I just read my first David Mitchell a few weeks ago (clarification: this was my first SUCCESSFUL attempt, as I had tried the book a few years ago and failed to make it through the first 30 pages!), and really enjoyed it. I do see what you mean about his books being challenging reads though... I also felt like I needed to take my time and go slowly through the rich world he creates. I'm really looking forward to this one, now that I've broken through the David Mitchell wall!

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  9. This book was recommended for our bookclub by someone who hadn't read it yet and I was hesitant to push forward with it until I started getting reviews. Sounds like a winner!

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  10. I have Cloud Atlas which Im reading this month which will be my first David Mitchell read, might give this a go if I get on with that.

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  11. I haven't read this, but it looks good. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Reply: I got Matilda because I love Roald Dahl-- been a fan for yeeeeeaaars. I recently looked through my bookshelves and realised I did not have Matilda, so I simply had to bookmooch it.

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  12. I haven't read Mitchell, but this sounds like a good place to start!

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  13. I definitely want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

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  14. David Mitchell's The Cloud Atlas has been sat in my TBR pile for a year or so, maybe I ought to read that one first.

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  15. I really want to read this one after hearing such good things about it, and I also have Cloud Atlas on my shelf waiting on me. I have heard that Cloud Atlas is a very difficult and absorbing book, so I am looking forward to the challenge. After your review of this one, it goes right on the list. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  16. I'm not sure that I would've been drawn to this one without having reading your review. I'll absolutely keep this one in mind!

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  17. Wow, if this one took you a month to read it would take me forever. I will need to put this one off until I have more time for books again.

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  18. I picked this for a Friday Finds post ages and ages ago but never got around to reading it. I do recall thinking that I had to be in the right frame of mind to start it though. I may save this one for Christmas break when I was take my time with it.

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  19. I keep hearing raves about this author but everyone does say that it isn't a book to be rushed through.

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  20. I really want to read this one! I've heard so much about David Mitchell, and can't wait to pick this one.

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