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

by David Mitchell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,2232581,179 (4.07)3 / 645
Member:Bal
Title:The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House Inc. (2011), Perfect Paperback, 502 pages
Collections:Your library (inactive)
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Historical Fiction

Work details

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

  1. 120
    Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (booklove2)
    booklove2: Very similar in writing style and general events.
  2. 61
    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. 51
    Cloud Atlas: A Novel 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 (pgraat)
    pgraat: Both books have a main character who fights against injustice, and are set in the Dutch colonial past.
  6. 21
    The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (clif_hiker)
  7. 43
    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.
  8. 00
    Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (zottel)
    zottel: Very similar feeling, perfect story-telling in well-researched historical fiction.
  9. 00
    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (rstaedter)
    rstaedter: Though not a story of eastern and western cultures, nonetheless a dense description of a foreign culture in the past.
  10. 12
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (psybre)
  11. 47
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: This is another excellent British historical novel.
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English (253)  Dutch (8)  German (2)  French (1)  Czech (1)  English (265)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
Wow. I loved this book. It started slowly and I was a little worried, since I wasn't crazy about Mitchell's previous book, Black Swan Green. But about halfway through the first section, I was completely hooked and I could hardly stand to put the book down last night. (It didn't help that I stopped reading at the end of the second section, which ends on an ominous note.)

I must admit that I read the third (and final) section very quickly this morning, not so much because I was eager to have the book done with as because I was very very concerned about a particular character who did not reappear for pages and pages.

This book isn't what I expected--after the slight Black Swan Green, I thought that Mitchell would give us another experiment with voice and form, more like Cloud Atlas or number9dream. This book is a yarn. It's a yarn with a theme, though. In some ways I think that the story is so compelling that it becomes easy to miss what Mitchell is saying about tribalism and ethnicity and religion. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
This is a perfectly crafted and meticulously researched novel. I enjoyed reading every page of it, and where it could have slipped into a predictable, crowd-pleasing resolution, it stayed true to the dissonance of real life, which ultimately was more satisfying and more respectable. I especially like the author's treatise on the Historical Fiction genre at the end of the book. I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying this genre, because so much of it is book-club-fodder hackery, but David Mitchell's reveals how brilliant a good historical novel can be. ( )
  trwm | Oct 6, 2016 |
This is one of those slow, simmering reads that creeps up on the reader... or I just developed a fascination when the whole British/Dutch trade wars surfaced. Overall, an interesting glimpse into a cloistered Japan, but I still find Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha to be the better read, IMO, although the theme of 'prisoner' in all it's forms that runs through this one was rather interesting to note. ( )
  lkernagh | Aug 21, 2016 |
This is a big book and I wasn't sure whether I'd like it. But I mostly did. It's flawed in places - too much description but it was interesting. I half read it and half listened in audio and the audio was more enjoyable - it seems to work better to listen to. The best section is the central monastery chapters. Better than I expected although most of the rest of my reading group hated it. ( )
  infjsarah | Jul 30, 2016 |
This audio recording was on of the best I have listened to, Jonathan Aris is a master of voices and really made the story come alive. This is the second David Mitchell book I have read/listened to and I shall be reading more very soon. ( )
  Cat-Lib | Jul 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (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 editionscalculated
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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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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