Monday, March 14, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet thoughts

It seems sadly apt to be writing this blog post now, but I recently finished the latest novel from David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, which is set in late 18th century Japan.

It concerns a tiny island in the habour at Nagasaki that's connected to the Japanese mainland through on which Dutch traders live as they conduct businesses with the nation – which otherwise bans all foreigners to enter, or natives to leave.

It's a great set up for a novel, and one you can imagine Mitchell stumbling upon and realising he could turn in to a great novel by combining the realities with his gift for very personal story-telling (historically the book is very accurate).

It's incredibly detailed and intricately told, with many characters and subtle discussions criss-crossing their way through the novel, which also includes a love story, an evil cult, a war and the rise of the British Empire.

I've read all five of Mitchell's novels now and this was definitely my favourite, for both its originality, and sheer breadth of interest and imagination – the combination of factually history mixed with excellent narrative is a winning formula, similar to Wolf Hall.

Incidentally I found a glaring typo in the version I had, with Jacob written as Jacon, so if any body wants a close reading book copy editor, you know where to find me (it's here, in case you didn't know).

It's sad now to think of this book, set on the coast of Japan, against the back drop of the horrible images coming from the nation in the wake of the almost incomprehensible devastation that has overcome the nation since last Friday's tsunami and earthquake.

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