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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by…
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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (original 2010; edition 2010)

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,0692461,248 (4.07)3 / 629
Member:sturlington
Title:The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House (2010), Edition: First, 3rd printing, Hardcover with dustjacket
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fave author, historical fiction, East and West, Nagasaki, Japan, Scott prize, ALA notable, read in 2010

Work details

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

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English (242)  Dutch (7)  French (1)  German (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (252)
Showing 1-5 of 242 (next | show all)
This is one of those books that you can’t read fast enough, and at the same time you wish would last for months. Mitchell makes 1799 Japan come alive with his soulful writing, the characters are fully formed and believable. Shifting POV usually annoys me to no end, but in this case it makes the plot unpredictable and exciting, it is a puzzle to be solved. I was trying to explain the plot to a friend… usually there is the protagonist and you can draw a straight line of how the story follows him/her over a period of time. I would draw this plot as a series of overlapping triangles. I know - that probably makes no sense. If you like historical fiction, just read it. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
Very well written. If I were an author and maybe an English teacher, or a house wife. I would probably enjoy this book a lot more. However, I did not find the story interesting. I didn't really like the title character either. This was my first David Mitchell novel. I am still planning on reading Cloud Atlas. Hopefully that book will combine his superb writing with an intriguing plot. ( )
  thefamousmoe | May 1, 2016 |
Waaay overwritten. ( )
  RiversideReader | Mar 15, 2016 |
Follows Jacob de Zoet, honest young red-haired Dutch trader/clerk, to Dejima, the football-field-sized island in Nagasaki harbor which served as the Dutch trading outpost to the shogunate. He befriends Ogawa Uzaemon, an interpreter, and falls in love with Orito Aibagawa, a midwife learning European techniques with other students under the tutelage of Dr. Marinus (who reappears in The Bone Clocks). After her scholar father dies, Miss Aibagawa is sold to Lord Abbot Enomoto, who sends her to his Shiranui Shrine, to look after the sisters of the shrine -- their periodic "engiftment" requires her services as a midwife. The creeds of this shrine, written on a scroll, are smuggled out by a disillusioned monk, and the scroll's transfer, from Jiritsu to Otane to Ogawa to de Zoet to chief magistrate Shiroyama, drives most of the plot forward, the main exception being the intrusion of the British ship Phoebus, with Captain Penhaligon (ancestor of Jonny Penhaligon of The Bone Clocks) at the helm. Mitchell's cast of characters spans the globe, from the United States (Captain Lacy) to Surinam (Fischer) to Capetown (van Cleef) to New South Wales (Twomey, Major Cutlip). If only Akira Kurosawa were around to direct the film version! ( )
  pheinrich | Feb 15, 2016 |


Didn't feel this was as good as Cloud Atlas, and even though the story was just getting on I gave up and moved on. ( )
  ellohull | Feb 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 242 (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)
 
Another Booker Prize nomination is likely to greet this ambitious and fascinating fifth novel—a full-dress historical, and then some—from the prodigally gifted British author
added by sturlington | editKirkus Reviews (May 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.
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Mitchellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aris, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilcox, PaulaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For K, H & N with love
First words
'Miss Kawasemi?' Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. 'Can you hear me?'
Quotations
‘If only,’ Shiroyama dreams, ‘human beings were not masks behind masks behind masks. If only this world was a clean board of lines and intersections. If only time was a sequence of considered moves and not a chaos of slippages and blunders.”
Creation never ceased on the sixth evening, it occurs to the young man. Creation unfolds around us, despite us and through us at the speed of days and nights. And we call it love.
“The soul is a verb." He impales a lit candle on a spike. "Not a noun.”
For white men, to live is to own, or to try to own more, or to die trying to own more. Their appetites are astonishing! They own wardrobes, slaves, carriages, houses, warehouses, and ships. They own ports, cities, plantations, valleys, mountains, chains of islands. They own this world, its jungles, its skies, and its seas. Yet they complain that Dejima is a prison. They complain they are not free.
Killing depends on circumstances, as you'd expect, whether it's a cold, planned murder, or a hot death in a fight, or inspired by honor or a more shameful motive. However many times you kill, though, it's the first that matters. It's a man's first blood that banishes him from the world of the ordinary.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.
Haiku summary
Sorry, we don't trade
With foreigners. Oh, you're Dutch?
Of course, that's different!
(passion4reading)

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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)

(summary from another edition)

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