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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A…

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

by David Mitchell

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4,3092621,146 (4.08)3 / 660
Title:The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Japan, Dutch, 1800's, trade, corruption

Work details

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

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English (258)  Dutch (8)  German (2)  French (1)  Czech (1)  All (270)
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
2.25 stars

Jacob de Zoet is a Dutch man working in Japan. He meets and falls in love with a doctor’s daughter (??? I think that’s how they are connected). When the doctor dies, the daughter is sent to live in a nunnery, but there is something very wrong at that nunnery.

Ok, so my summary is only a small part of the book. Too small for my liking because it was the only interesting part of the book for me and the reason the book got an extra .25 stars. If it had been even a bit more of the book, I would have raised the rating slightly higher; if it had been the focus of the book, my rating would have been considerably higher. The rest of the book – no idea what happened. It was boring boring boring. I wasn’t even a little bit interested, so I have no idea what it was really about, except I think Jacob was working for the Dutch East India Company. Which reminds me, it was set, mostly in 1799. ( )
  LibraryCin | Apr 8, 2017 |
David Mitchell is one of Britain's best writers. I read GHOSTWRITTEN and NUMBER9DREAM.... dreamy,shape-shifting books, which I would have difficulty categorizing....CLOUD ATLAS...which was in the running for the National Book Critics Circle Award... and the poignant SWAN GREEN. I will admit that when I heard that THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET was an historical romance set in 18th Century Japan, I was not as eager to read it, but David Mitchell IS one of Britain's best writers and he managed to take this old-fashioned genre and turn it into something fresh and exciting....a masterpiece.
( )
  maryhollis | Feb 20, 2017 |
You have to love the writing in this expansive novel set from 1799 through the early 1800s.

"Winter woods are creaking, knitted and knotted. Dead leaves lie in deep drifts. Needle-tips of birdsong stitch and thread the thicket's many layers. Shuzai and Uzaemon climb in silence. Here the Mekura River is a bellowing, roiling, echoing thing. The granite sky entombs the valley."

The book is a masterpiece of research and wordsmithing. The main stories take place 1) on Dejima, a man-made island off Nagasaki, Japan, created for the purpose of trade with the Dutch and to keep foreigners away from the mainland; 2) The House of Sisters, Mount Shiranui Shrine in Koyoga Domain; 3) Shirando Academy and other sites in Nagasak; 4) aboard the HMS Phoebus, a British ship.

"The Yellow Sea has changed color from this morning's robin's-egg blue to ordure gray, with a sky of scabby pewter."

Jacob de Zoet, a Dutch accounting clerk, arrives on Dejima aboard a Dutch trade ship and is fated to spend the next few years living on Dejima. He is soon smitten with a young Japanese woman, also a scholar and midwife. She is betrothed to another. The death of her father twists her fortune helplessly. Corruption rules everywhere. Jacob learns a horrible truth and sets out to rescue the young woman.

Some of what might have happened in and around Dejima is the basis for Mitchell's novel. Those who like literary books will be transported to another place in history and culture. Is it more ruthless than today? You judge. Fascinating details. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I enjoyed the historical detail in the book, and the jaunty cast of characters where amusing and horrifying in equal measure.

I found the romance angle a little hard to comprehend and believe in.

I loved the structure of the book and the surprising and unconventional plot twists that the author bravely took. I liked it more than Black Swan Green and it was easier to follow than the DM's earlier works. ( )
  NicolaCT | Jan 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 258 (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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For K, H & N with love
First words
'Miss Kawasemi?' Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. 'Can you hear me?'
‘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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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!

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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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