Friday, July 16, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (by David Mitchell)

David Mitchell is one of my favorite living writers; Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green are both masterpieces. So I had to pick up his newest book, about a Dutch trading post off the coast of Nagasaki, in old-timey imperialist days. Plus: Dutch people!

(One disappointment is that there really wasn't much Dutch language in it at all. 99% of the Dutch conversation is rendered in English.)

It's fully realized and epic in scope, great characters (especially the main character, Jacob, and the translater, Ogawa Uzaemon) but it was a bit of a slog. At least that's how I felt until I got to the ending, which is amazing. The final few chapters are just pitch perfect. (There's even one that is a long passage of rhymes, ending gorgeously.) And it made me feel the Mitchell magic for the first time.

I admit I like his postmodern stuff better, on the whole, and I wasn't as fired up about this one as I was about Cloud Atlas. But Mitchell writes a hell of an historical epic, with a lot of depth. I mean, of course he does.

(P.S. Here's a great interview with Mitchell about the book.)


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