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Cloud Atlas [Paperback]

David Mitchell
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (589 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

22 Nov 2012

By the author of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, David Mitchell's bestselling and Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, one of Richard & Judy's 100 Books of the Decade, CLOUD ATLAS has now been adapted for film. The major motion picture, directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant.

The novel features six characters in interlocking stories, each interrupting the one before it: a reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified dinery server on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation. The narrators of CLOUD ATLAS hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changes in ways great and small.

Mitchell's other novels are GHOSTWRITTEN, BLACK SWAN GREEN and NUMBER9DREAM, all published by Sceptre.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (22 Nov 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1444730878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444730876
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (589 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature prizes and the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well. David Mitchell's sixth novel is The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, September 2014).

He now lives in Ireland with his wife and their two children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

It's hard not to become ensnared by words beginning with the letter B, when attempting to describe Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell's third novel. It's a big book, for start, bold in scope and execution--a bravura literary performance, possibly. (Let's steer clear of breathtaking for now.) Then, of course, Mitchell was among Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and his second novel number9dreamwas shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Characters with birthmarks in the shape of comets are a motif; as are boats. Oh and one of the six narratives strands of the book--where coincidentally Robert Frobisher, a young composer, dreams up "a sextet for overlapping soloists" entitled Cloud Atlas--is set in Belgium, not far from Bruges. (See what I mean?)

Structured rather akin to a Chinese puzzle or a set of Matrioshka dolls, there are dazzling shifts in genre and voice and the stories leak into each other with incidents and people being passed on like batons in a relay race. The 19th-century journals of an American notary in the Pacific that open the novel are subsequently unearthed 80 years later on by Frobisher in the library of the ageing, syphilitic maestro he's trying to fleece. Frobisher's waspish letters to his old Cambridge crony, Rufus Sexsmith, in turn surface when Rufus, (by the 1970s a leading nuclear scientist) is murdered. A novelistic account of the journalist Luisa Rey's investigation into Rufus' death finds its way to Timothy Cavendish, a London vanity publisher with an author who has an ingenious method of silencing a snide reviewer. And in a near-dystopian Blade Runner-esque future, a genetically engineered fast food waitress sees a movie based on Cavendish's unfortunate internment in a Hull retirement home. (Cavendish himself wonders how a director called Lars might wish to tackle his plight). All this is less tricky than it sounds, only the lone "Zachary" chapter, told in Pacific Islander dialect (all "dingos'n'ravens", "brekker" and "f'llowin'"s) is an exercise in style too far. Not all the threads quite connect but nonetheless Mitchell binds them into a quite spellbinding rumination on human nature, power, oppression, race, colonialism and consumerism. --Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A remarkable book ... there won't be a bigger, bolder novel this year. (Guardian)

An impeccable dance of genres ... an elegiac, radiant festival of prescience, meditation and entertainment. (The Times)

His wildest ride yet ... a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill (Matt Thorne, Independent on Sunday)

David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end. (AS Byatt, Guardian)

Mitchell's storytelling in CLOUD ATLAS is of the best. I was, appropriately, captivated. (Lawrence Norfolk, Independent)

The best novel of the year so far ... a thrilling ride of a story (Philip Hensher, Summer Reading, Observer)

Impeccably structured novel of ideas in many voices by a talent to watch. (Literary Editor's Best Books, Observer)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
735 of 740 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly enjoyable 28 April 2010
I was expecting to hate this book. I forced myself to try it because people had gone on about it so much, but I really didn't like the descriptions I'd heard: 500-plus pages, visions of a dystopian future, a fractured timescale with six loosely-linked narratives each nested within the previous one, and so on and so on. It just reeked to me of a self-regarding author determined to show the judging panels of literary prizes how terribly clever he was, and with no interest whatsoever in whether anyone normal would actually be able to read the thing.

Well, I was completely wrong. I thought it was absolutely terrific. Interesting, thoughtful, readable and - most surprisingly of all - page-turningly suspenseful and exciting quite a lot of the time. I thought it had a lot of thoughtful and thought-provoking things to say about exploitation and the abuse of power, and about the possible consequences of both humanity and inhumanity. The different voices are really well done, with the historic and present-day(ish) ones sounding absolutely authentic and the future ones chillingly believable both in the language they use and what they say with it. The stories are involving, occasionally humorous, sometimes sad and sometimes extremely touching. For example, the few paragraphs when a character in a train passes some of the places of his youth and sees them much changed are really affecting, I thought, even though the character himself is thoroughly odious.

I doubt whether many people, if any, will read this review among the hundreds of others here, but if you do I would urge you to try the book. Plainly quite a few other reviewers hated the book and did find it as terrible as I expected to. You may hate it too, but you won't have lost much. On the other hand, you may be surprised to find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I did. It's worth the risk - if you do find it's for you, you'll never forget it.
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123 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To read, or not to read... 2 April 2010
With the mixed reviews, that is the question!

This is a big read. Quite long, and filled with connections, but it is very rewarding.

So, read it if you have the time and the mental energy. On holiday, for example. Do not get this book and think you can do 20 pages a night and just dip into it. It will need your time.

It will also need your patience. I found it hard to get into, and nearly gave up during the first part. Just as I was getting into the first part, it finished and the second part started and I felt like I was starting again.

But keep going and you will get to the point where it all starts to come together.

I would also suggest that you find out as little as possible about the plot. Let the plot reveal itself. Don't read the reviews that give it away and don't surf around looking for comment and insight into it. Let the intricateness reveal itself naturally.

If you have the time and patience you will find a wonderful book.
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109 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cumulative Nimbleness 22 Jun 2004
Everything about Cloud Atlas - the elegant and allusive title, the heft of this 540-page hardback (which as well as providing food for thought, doubles as a good cardiovascular workout), the quotes and prize-tips it comes garlanded with, even the bold cover (so idiosyncratically contemporary it should achieve kitsch status within a couple of years) - says: This is a significant book.
And so it is. As you begin to read it, first your opinion rises to meet your expectations, and then continues from there. What Mitchell has done is return to the form of his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), with a linked set of stories, but with a twist this time. The narrative is less a Russian doll than an onionskin: we get one story which is interrupted by another, and that by another, and so on as we drill through the flesh of the book. At the centre is a whole story, then we return to resume the story it interrupted, then the story *it* interrupted, and so on until the book ends with the conclusion of the story which began it.

And also! As well as having the earlier stories enclosing the later ones, within the structure of the book, Mitchell also has - fictionally and chronologically - the later stories enclosing the earlier ones. By this I mean within each story, the protagonist is aware of the story which has just been interrupted.
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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably a bit of a Marmite book. 22 April 2011
By D. Ho
I received this book from somebody as part of the World Book Night 2011 project so I thought I'd give it a go.

I have just finished Cloud Atlas after taking it with me on holiday. To be honest I did not enjoy most of it. Indeed after 2 chapters I very nearly gave up on the book.

The novel is essentially six short stories with a tenuous and at best superficial link between them. The stories are written in a variety of presentations and styles and seemed more of a showcase for the authors linguistic talents and maybe his insights and thoughts on humanity through the ages rather than to engage the reader with a good story. While it may be fair to say that the authors grasp of the english language surpasses my own, I am hardly an uneducated philistine but to feel the need to run off to a dictionary at nearly every paragraph is hardly conducive to immersion. Thankfully after the first 2 chapters it becomes a bit easier going. However I still found the authors deliberate mis-spellings of some words more annoying rather than adding to the tales.

The authors choice to split the stories into halves is in my opinion more gimmickry than revolutionary (which he questions himself in the guise of his sextet). The problem is that the stories in themselves are not good enough to keep the reader hooked enough to want to continue to find out the conclusion (maybe with the exception of the futuristic tale) so thus forcing the reader to endure at least half the book before finding any gratification in how any particular story concludes. It's a bit like one of those rambling comedy stories that just goes on for too long before the punchline is reached.

In conclusion I would say that a person should read this book as an exercise in literacy exploration. If however you are looking for a good story to get stuck into, you're better off looking elsewhere.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 14 hours ago by James Brewster
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is definitely not brilliant or masterful
I agree with a but a "bit too clever ". This book is definitely not brilliant or masterful. David Mitchell is obviously a very skilled writer but whatever point this book... Read more
Published 18 hours ago by rusty
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Love it
Published 1 day ago by Dominic R. Buttery
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing roller coaster
I didn't want to get off this ride through the past into the future and back again. Each story so well written and expertly knitted together - a real masterpiece.
Published 6 days ago by Mrs Jennifer L Hope
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A must read
Published 6 days ago by MR SHAUN NEWSOME
4.0 out of 5 stars Good...
Good read, well written, something out of the ordinary.
Published 6 days ago by Green Tree Frog
4.0 out of 5 stars masterful
A wonderful read with beautifully intertwined stories. I would recommend to anyone who like mysteries, historical fiction or even just the magical!
Published 10 days ago by S. J. Knights
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book
A Lovely book. I'd give it five stars, but the grammatical I/me problem is irritating, and could do with correcting. It's still going to be a very worthy classic though.
Published 17 days ago by Liz Harding
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good
Published 19 days ago by P M Ainsworth
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good buy
Published 24 days ago by Nookoftghenorth
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