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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (original 2010; edition 2011)

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6762221,431 (4.09)3 / 553
Member:Bal
Title:The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House Inc. (2011), Perfect Paperback, 502 pages
Collections:Novels, Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Historical Fiction

Work details

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

  1. 120
    Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (booklove2)
    booklove2: Very similar in writing style and general events.
  2. 51
    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. 10
    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.
  6. 10
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (sturlington)
  7. 21
    The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (clif_hiker)
  8. 00
    The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (Anonymous user)
  9. 00
    The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (sturlington)
    sturlington: Recurring characters.
  10. 11
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  11. 56
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: This is another excellent British historical novel.
  12. 23
    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 (217)  Dutch (7)  French (1)  German (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (227)
Showing 1-5 of 217 (next | show all)
Jacob de Zoet arrives in 1799 Nagasaki as a clerk for the Dutch East India Company unprepared for the corruption and intrigue that follows or for the effect a Japanese midwife, Aibagawa Orito, has on him.

I had a hard job matching names and characters at first, but once I got into it, this book was a joy to read. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Dec 19, 2014 |
I listened to this, and it was, again, a fascinating read. Set in Japan at the end of the 18th century, it is a step into two different cultures. Jacob is a clerk with the Dutch East India company and he arrives in Japan determined to make his fortune and return to Holland to win his lady love. Things don;t quite go to plan, as he gets involved in uncovering fraud, before being castigated for failing to turn a blind eye to a further fraud.
Miss Ibagowa is, in contrast, a daughter of a samurai and doctor. She is unusual in that she is a midwife and has access to learning. Just at the point you think their stories will converge, they take a dramatic turn of events. Nothing in this turns out the way it might. The ending is somewhat disconcerting, but that doesn't make the story any the less good for that. ( )
  Helenliz | Dec 18, 2014 |
I had recently read Cloud Atlas, which I enjoyed. But this book was even better! Pure delight on every page. ( )
  keithostertag | Nov 22, 2014 |
Started slow, but left me breathless by the end. ( )
  Thomper | Nov 21, 2014 |
This novel tells the story of the Dutch trading out-post of Dejima in Nagasaki at the turn of the 19th century, when this was Europe's only contact with Japan. It follows the fate of shipping clerk Jacob de Zoet and allows the reader to share his thoughts, bewilderment, amazement and anxieties when faced with its alien and often hostile race and culture, and through him learns to love and respect the people in it.

The title of the book alludes to one of Japan's native poetical names, "The Land of a Thousand Autumns"; it describes life in the Dutch enclave in great detail, and shows how Jacob falls in love with Orito Aibagawa, a midwife. As their love is forbidden, she is banished to a monastery, and from then on the narration follows Jacob and Orito's fates separately. The first half of the book is slow, some critics might even say too slow, but then it gathers pace and ends with a real bang. It is in turns moving, funny, suspenseful and tragic, peopled with a wonderful cast of characters that just leap off the page. David Mitchell's writing is a dream: his prose crisp and precise yet eloquent, poetic and playful at the same time.

This novel might not be to everyone's liking, but I loved it. ( )
  passion4reading | Oct 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 217 (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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Mitchellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aris, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilcox, PaulaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For K, H & N with love
First words
'Miss Kawasemi?' Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. 'Can you hear me?'
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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
Foreigners are not
Allowed in Japan. Oh, you're
Dutch traders? Welcome!
(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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