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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A…

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel (original 2010; edition 2010)

by David Mitchell

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Title:The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House (2010), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:TBR, England

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (2010)

18th century (69) 19th century (30) 2010 (42) 2011 (24) 21st century (33) British (44) Dejima (59) Dutch (50) Dutch East India Company (35) ebook (21) England (19) English literature (22) fiction (496) historical (60) historical fiction (249) historical novel (21) history (39) Japan (373) Kindle (34) literature (37) love (19) Nagasaki (63) Netherlands (34) novel (80) read (33) read in 2010 (41) read in 2011 (21) signed (21) to-read (116) VOC (27)
  1. 110
    Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (booklove2)
    booklove2: Very similar in writing style and general events.
  2. 41
    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (bellisc)
    bellisc: also set at a crossroads of science and faith, though wholly in Europe, similar in writing style and themes
  3. 41
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (pgmcc)
    pgmcc: Really enjoyable set of related stories with the author's well deomonstrated skill
  4. 31
    Embassytown by China Miéville (ansate)
  5. 21
    The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (clif_hiker)
  6. 00
    Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli (postvak)
    postvak: Both books have a main character who fights against injustice, and are set in the Dutch colonial past.
  7. 11
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (psybre)
  8. 56
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: This is another excellent British historical novel.
  9. 13
    Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell (CGlanovsky, PghDragonMan)
    CGlanovsky: A westerner in Japan.
    PghDragonMan: The best, and worst, of feudal Japan through the eyes of a foreigner.

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English (200)  Dutch (7)  French (1)  German (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (210)
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
I had a hard time with this book...I spend the first part of the book trying to figure out what was going on. Then there were sections that were very compelling that made me keep reading, but then it would go back to sections that either I didn't understand or didn't care about. I think I would have liked this book better if it focused more on the stories of De Zoet and Orito and less on the other characters. ( )
  goet0095 | Mar 27, 2014 |
For those with an interest in Asia, and even more so those with some knowledge of East Asian history, this is a terrific historical novel. It is centered on Dejima, the tiny island in Nagasaki harbor that the Tokugawa shogunate permitted as its only trade and information window to the West during most of the 200+ year era. Both the Dutch side and the Nagasaki, Japanese, side characters are well-drawn and feel "lived in."

Mitchell starts slowly, with some scene setting that pays off only later, and some will be put off by that. All I can say is that you keep going, the pace and the interaction of the threads of the plot pick up greatly as you go along. (One way to assure yourself about that would be to dip into the book 100+ pages in; I think you'll get a sense of the momentum if you do.) The book has several climaxes, for different threads, and each of them lands with great impact. The plot offers action, suspense, and more than one moving love story. Beyond plot, the book has some to offer in cross-cultural insight (some expressed with great humor) and philosophical reflection -- with a minimum of lecturing about any of that. Not a profound book, but a very enjoyable and rewarding read.

The novel was, deservedly, short-listed for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2011.. ( )
  pechmerle | Feb 7, 2014 |
This was another fabulous constructed story by David Mitchell. The characters and the historical details made this not only very enjoyable but also very interesting. It provides also cultural look at Japan when it was just being opened up to trade and the conflict with Christianity. I really liked Jacob de Zoet. A great character.
I listened to this by audio but it is rather hard to keep all the character names strait because you have the many Asian characters, Dutch characters, other countries and the English. It was sometimes hard to know who or what was the subject. I found a list of characters and this helped a lot. I also finally picked up the book from the library. This is one where if you listen to the audio its maybe good to have either whispersync or a book around. The narrators do a really great job. ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 12, 2014 |
Rating: two headachey stars out of five

The Publisher Says: In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.

Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician. He cannot foresee how disastrously each will be betrayed by someone they trust, nor how intertwined and far-reaching the consequences.

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.

My Review: This book is very pleasantly written, taken line by line, and is an interesting window onto a time I find underexplored. De Zoet himself makes me want to scream, and Orito is so unlikely a heroine that I found myself snorting a lot. I've heard lots of carrying on about how many characters there were in the book, but this presented no problem for me, not sure why.

Perhaps this is a case of overselling a book, I don't know. I doubt it, frankly; I think I'd be chucking it in the charity bin if it was written by Schmoopie de Zoet, Jacob's great-great-grandchild. It's too many books manhandled into one. It's too much idea for too little room to explore it. It's too wrought, worked over, etched and scrimshawed and chased and gilded and MADE, for me to forget I'm reading a book and instead experience a story.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
  richardderus | Oct 30, 2013 |
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. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, at first glane, is just that: however, the author has entered uncharted waters by venturing into an area which is seldom explored in historical novels, by choosing Japan during her international isolation as the venue and making the clerk of the erstwhile Dutch East India company, the unlikely hero.

Jacob de Zoet has joined the Dutch East India Company as a clerk, due to reasons common to many young men of his generation: in the hope of making a quick fortune to marry the girl of his dreams. But all too soon he discovers that to proceed in his career, he has to sell his soul to the devil. He is that anomaly, an honest man in a European commercial enterprise in a corrupt era. Jacob refuses to do this, and falls afoul of his superiors, ruining his bright career chances: to compound his woes, he falls in love with Orito Aibagawa, a Japanese midwife with a burn disfiguring half her face. His already hopeless suit becomes even more impossible when Orito is sold into virtual slavery at the Mount Shiranui shrine to pay off her dead father's debts by her stepmother. Deliverance comes for Jacob and Orito, however, at the end, but not in any way envisaged by them.

Mitchell's novel is panoramic in sweep and flawless in execution. His technique is cinematic: sentences follow the principles of montage, so that each thought process of a character, each speech is interspersed with happenings in the surroundings (in fact, all the while I was reading this novel, I was running a movie in my mind: especially part two in the Shiranui shrine which was in Multicolour and Panavision and directed by Kurosawa). This, along with the fact that it is written entirely in the present tense, gives a sense of immediacy to the narrative. The characterisation is also terrific; especially the villain, Enomoto, is worthy of Amrish Puri!

Then why the three stars? Well, IMO, what the novel provides in technique it misses in substance. For all its page-turning suspense and colourful background, I found the story to be rather lacking in a central focus. I was confused at the end on what the author was trying to say through this novel. After rising to a satisfying plateau through parts one and two, part three was a partial let-down: and the resolution was totally unsatisfying. Let us just say that Mitchell raised my hopes only to dash them to the ground.

Maybe my high hopes at the beginning made my review a trifle harsh. But don't be put off, it's a good read anyway. ( )
1 vote Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
There are no easy answers or facile connections in “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.” In fact, it’s not an easy book, period. Its pacing can be challenging, and its idiosyncrasies are many. But it offers innumerable rewards for the patient reader and confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless­writers alive.
added by LiteraryFiction | edithttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/books/review/Eggers-t.html?ref=bookreviews, Dave Eggers (Jul 1, 2010)
For his many and enthusiastic admirers — critics, prize juries, readers — the fecundity of Mitchell’s imagination marks him as one of the most exciting literary writers of our age. Indeed, in 2007, he was the lone novelist on Time’ s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Through five novels, most impressively with his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, Mitchell has demonstrated flat-out ambition with respect to testing — sometimes past their breaking points — the conventions of storytelling structure, perspective, voice, language and range. The result, according to Mitchell’s rare detractors, is an oeuvre marked by imaginative wizardry and stylistic showmanship put on offer for their own sake. For most everyone else, however, Mitchell’s writing is notable because its wizardry and showmanship are in the service of compulsively readable stories and, at its best moments, are his means of revealing, in strange places and stranger still ways, nothing less than the universals of human experience.
Though direct in its storytelling, Jacob de Zoet marks a return to full amplitude. That means occasionally over-long scenes and one or two rambling monologues. But it also guarantees fiction of exceptional intelligence, richness and vitality.
With “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” David Mitchell has traded in the experimental, puzzlelike pyrotechnics of “Ghostwritten” and “Number9Dream” for a fairly straight-ahead story line and a historical setting.

He’s meticulously reconstructed the lost world of Edo-era Japan, and in doing so he’s created his most conventional but most emotionally engaging novel yet: it’s as if an acrobatic but show-offy performance artist, adept at mimicry, ventriloquism and cerebral literary gymnastics, had decided to do an old-fashioned play and, in the process, proved his chops as an actor.
Now, however, with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, he has moved on, jettisoned the cross-referencing, and severed the overt links to his previous books. It is interesting but unnecessary to know that the author has lived in Japan, is the father of half-Japanese children, and has set an earlier novel – number9dream (2001) – in the country. Equally, the fact that this new novel centres on a love story between a European man and a Japanese woman represents no more than the most elementary draw from autobiography. Beyond that, it is a self-standing historical novel, written in chronological order in the present tense, which conjures up a profoundly researched and fully realised world.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Mitchellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aris, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilcox, PaulaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Miss Kawasemi?' Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. 'Can you hear me?'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.

But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”

A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.
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1799, Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor. Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk, has a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city's powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken--the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob's worst imaginings.… (more)

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