What it lacked in movement, it made up for in deep character study and a compelling main character. Although the Edo referred to in the Hiroshige prints is a place a city later to be renamed Tokyo , Edo also refers to the period of Japanese history starting from around the turn of the 17th century through the late 19th century. I found de Zoet’s meandering path through life to make for interesting reading, and the parts of the book that aren’t overwritten are well-written. Mitchell also repeatedly employs this weird interleaving of interior and exterior monologue. Duplicity and integrity, love and lust, guilt and faith, cold murder and strange immortality stalk the stage in this enthralling novel, which brings to vivid life the ordinary—and extraordinary—people caught up in a tectonic shift between East and West. Maybe you’ll love this book. And we follow him to the harbour to watch his hopes, in the form of the ship back to civilisation, sail out and beyond view.

View all 8 comments. The concubine shivers and groans. In between is a tightly-plotted, present-tense, third-person narrative that exploits the full potential of the characters as well as the clash of cultures: In an unknown author, I might attribute this to a weird lexical tick, but Mitchell is a careful, meticulous writer capable of adopting many different voices and styles, so I think this has to be intentional. Jacob also proves to be a dedicated professional. Reading David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is like consuming that first, vital coffee of the day I dedicate my very terrible simile to the Dutch, who created the modern stock market, based on the coffee trade in the century before the setting of this novel. This book is very pleasantly written, taken line by line, and is an interesting window onto a time I find underexplored.

It documents the fans and drawings and scrolls that captured it at the time. On Mitchell’s Themes A running theme through the novel is power and its abuse, which fits in nicely with the current zeitgeist. To some, such a gleeful mixture of ingredients may signify great and wondrous Literature, but, to me, signifies someone who attempted to write great and wondrous Literature and failed and therefore should have made sure they understood how to bake a simple cheesecake – that is, write a good story – before adding in the complexifying spices.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

auyumns James Wood, a critic who I admire greatly, has to go far to find fault, but he does manage it. Here is a bygone secret world full of charm and horror. It’s got zot, wattleseed, sumac, mace nutmeg shellsjuniper, mahlab, kaffir lime, etc, etc. Published June 29th by Random House first published May 13th The atmosphere of the Dejima factory, in sounds, smells, and resentments, was palpable. Only, unlike the game of Go that winds its way through the novel, there is no “clean board of lines and intersections”: Though it sets up to where you think it will be a slowly unfolding, cross cultural love story with the backdrop of the Dutch trading post in Japan, Mitchell is far too inventive for that.


However, Wikipedia claims the story is apocryphal autimns, and that the gesture’s first recorded use dates to the early 20th century. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

The forest’s edges Dissolve and blur. Mitchell breaks down that wall. Orito choosing to save others despite her imprisonment, and Uzaemon abandoning his steady, obedient life to destroy the temple.

This attraction is carried throughout the novel, and forms the core of the story that propels the reader through the book. That’s where this book kicked my suspension of disbelief, landing a crunching, foetal-position-inducing blow that was all the more painful for being unexpected. Now I realize I should have been chuckling a lot more!

He lives in Ireland. I had no idea there were all these Christians in Japan!

But as the story builds a head of steam and the characters evolve their individual quiddity this weakness fall away and, from around page or so I was captive.

Clerk Jacob de Zoet, the unlikely hero of our novel, could be another Adam Ewing from ‘Cloud Atlas’ or a version of Mitchell himself – a passive observer of human fallacies stranded in a zone of conflict where all participants have reluctantly negotiated an uneasy truce, an oblivious witness to a crucial juncture in history. All the sleepless nights, wrecked marriages and substance addictions have come down to this. Nominally an earnest and trustworthy clerk who manages the books of account, he is also responsible for communication with the Japanese.

After an hour or two of wandering through rooms sporting giant, bombastic 19th century American paintings, I came upon a dim hall with small, colorful prints hanging from the wall, like this one: He gains respect with the local Japanese magistrate, who passes along the intelligence about the mountaintop cult, and commits ritual suicide with the cult’s leader in order to make sure he dies.


I like how even the Cpt.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

And the escape chapter ends with her poised above the precipitous route to the outside world. Three Poems by Sara Borjas. There is exquisite language that is a luxury to read and there are detours that frustrate until you realize you are happily lost and willing to stay the course because you trust the roads will all meet up again. It is a book to remember. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. It is a work of exhaustively researched historical fiction, set in the Dutch concession of Dejima in Japan a closed, artificial island, within a nation of islands closed to the worldat the crossover of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Dutch traders are restricted to an island in the harbour called “Dejima”. Thus, from their point of view, it is not a point of entry. I expected to love this book, and I was disappointed.

The story of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a divide during a turbulent historical period is the staple of many an historical novel. Set in Nagasaki, Japan on the artificial island of Dejima, the plot revolves around the titular Jacob de Zoet, a synopsiss with the Dutch East India Company, and Orito, the slightly scarred midwife whose beauty and intelligence captivate Jacob and other characters besides.

By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. Then for a while we have a section that’s told by a slave called Weh, which is in the first person for no apparent reason since the third-person sections are plenty omniscient when it comes to Jacob’s and Ogawa’s private thoughts.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Another sign of hope comes via the Magistrate, and more neat plotting.