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Ghostwritten [Kindle Edition]

David Mitchell
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

"What is real and what is not?": David Mitchell's first novel, Ghostwritten: A Novel in Nine Parts, plays with this question throughout its "parts". (That there are 10 sections is just part of the mystery of this book's schema.) Told through a range of voices, scattered across the globe--Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Petersburg, London--Ghostwritten has been described as a "firework display, shooting off in a dozen different narrative directions" (Adam Lively).

Certainly, Mitchell offers his readers a vertiginous, sometimes seductive, display of persona and place. "Twenty million people live and work in Tokyo," he writes in "Okinawa", the first section in the novel. "It's so big that nobody really knows where it stops." That sense of the global extension of the (post)modern city, the networks-- cultural, technological, phantasmagoric--to which it gives rise, is one key to this story of a Japanese death cult devoted to purging the "unclean" (gas attacks on the metro). "No, in Tokyo you have to make your place inside your head": that's how this immense world gets smaller, more subjective, more mad, as the narrator, Mr Kobayashi, sheds his "old family of the skin" to join a new "family of the spirit". It's a common theme. "I'm this person, I'm this person, I'm that person, I'm that person too," chants the voice of "Hong Kong", in the second section of the book. "No wonder it's all such a fucking mess." Neal's talking about his world, his life as a Hong Kong trader--"he's a man of departments, compartments, apartments"--but he might also be describing the experience of reading Ghostwritten. At once loquacious and knowing, leisurely and frantic, Mitchell offers his readers a huge, but fragmentary, portmanteau which builds in the links between its parts--aching bodies, reality police, the "ghost" writer in the machine of contemporary life, its mad, comic, and cosmic voices--without quite convincing you that they really do come together. -- Vicky Lebeau


Demands to be read and re-read . . . an astonishing debut (Lawrence Norfolk, Independent)

'The accolades are well deserved..Ghostwritten is a wide-reaching, mult-layered novel...Mitchell also captures a tenderness, a yearning for something deeper, just below what often appears in as a bleak and cheerless surface' The Observer

'Mitchell's dazzling debut covers a lot of geography and a vast range of topics. The whole magpie's nest is loosely bundled into the net bag of a fiercely incomprehensible and mystical plot. Gracefully written, Mitchell is definitely a new name to look out for. The Times

One of the best first novels I've read in a long time . . . I couldn't put it down (AS Byatt, Mail on Sunday)

A firework display . . . a remarkable novel by a young writer of remarkable talent (Observer)

'One of those ingeniously interlinked stories that can take some following at times but which make a thoroughly entertaining mix' Manchester Evening News

'Technically accomplished, but consistently funny and affecting: if you want to know what the distinctive literature of the 21st century will look like, begin here' Boyd Tonkin, Independent

The best first novel I have read in ages . . . it beguiles, informs, shocks and captivates. (William Boyd, Daily Telegraph Books of the)

Fabulously atmospheric and wryly perceptive . . . a huge new talent (Guardian Books of the Year)

The best modern novel I have read for some time (Rachel Cusk, Express on Sunday)

A remarkable first novel . . . Eastern, ethereal, yet flecked with flashes of commando grit, this multi-faceted novel is full of surprises (Time Out)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 539 KB
  • Print Length: 444 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375724508
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 2 edition (2 Oct 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340739754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340739754
  • ASIN: B002V091FW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,924 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

David Mitchell's first novel, GHOSTWRITTEN, was published in 1999, when it won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, NUMBER9DREAM, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003 he was chosen as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, CLOUD ATLAS, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the South Bank Show Literature Prize, and the Best Literary Fiction and Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year categories in the British Book Awards. It was shortlisted for a further six awards including the Man Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize and has been made into a feature film starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, released in the UK in February 2013. His fourth novel, BLACK SWAN GREEN, was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His most recent novel, THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010.

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he spent several years teaching in Japan, and now lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and haunting 15 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Each chapter in this book is a short story in itself and at the same time they're all collected together to create one incredible and bizarre epic. Mitchell has the kind of talent that just drips off the pages. It's like attending a nine-course banquet, with each dish more fabulous than the last one. He carries you away and amazes you with every new thought. An incredible piece of work. Absolutely fantastic. Soulful is the right word I think.
There's a different character in each chapter so he adopts a different voice to reflect that character. You're inside the head of an old Chinese woman living up a mountain one minute, a disembodied lost spirit the next and a middle-aged genius scientist the next. It's really quite beautiful to read.
There are so many different subjects condensed into one book it's hard to say what it's about, other than the way chance affects our lives. We have the Tokyo subway attacks in one story; the history of China from the Japanese occupation through the cultural revolution through Deng Xiaoping's reforms in another.Then theories of quantum physics and a late night radio show. It's stuffed full. You never know what's coming next.
People who are looking for a conventional story won't like this, nor will people who want their characters to be fully developed. Not that the characters aren't well written. But we don't necessarily get a full picture of their lives, we just get a slice and you don't necessarily know everything about them. Anyone who doesn't like figuring things out for themselves won't like it either, because he leaves quite a lot to the reader's imagination. You have to put the story together yourself and that requires work.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an intriguing read 29 Nov 2006
I read this book on a recommedation of a shop assistant. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the 9 stories, and delighted in each tale for itself.

However the ending, totally washed over me, and I wondered what it was all about.

I found myself still thinking about the book several weeks after I finished.Something I have not done in years. On one hand I think it doesn't matter what it's all about, so I should just have enjoyed the read.

And on another, I find I must figure it out, my conclusion is I think its about shared conciousness??

Its a challenging book ,in that it makes us think. But it's very well written and a joy to read. If you need solid endings, don't buy it. If you want something to think about, do.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, intriguing and intelligent debut 14 Oct 2005
Ghostwritten is at first glance a collection of short stories, located in places as diverse as a small jazz shop in Tokyo, a tea shack on Holy Mountain, a small Irish island and a radio studio in the United States. But all the stories have connections with each other: characters from previous stories pop up, sometimes so glancingly that you have to be very aware. In the end this is a (very intelligent and masterfully crafted) novel about what is and is not true, what is real and what only exists inside (or even outside) the human mind and why do make people which decisions. It is actually quite diffucult to summarize the contents of the book, but it is absolutely wonderful: read it!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I came to this after reading 'Cloud Atlas' and 'Black Swan Green'. As I thought that both of those books were truly excellent I wasn't sure that 'Ghostwritten' would be able to match them, being Mitchell's first work. How wrong I was! This is magnificent.

Like 'Cloud Atlas' and to some extent 'Black Swan Green', Ghostwritten takes the form of interconnected short stories (9 of them here) in which the connections aren't just linear (one story leading to another) but network, so that a small piece of information, speech or feeling in one of the earlier stories suddenly takes on greater significance in a later story. But you cannot judge each story individually because the book itself is definitely more than just a sum of its parts. Some people criticise Mitchell's books for not being "novels". I think this is a misplaced criticism. Surely the best novels don't just have a linear narrative with a defined beginning, middle and end. There must be a place for novels that reflect the reality of ideas, people and places connecting via spidery, tenuous networks. If some feel disappointed that the stories seem to end without much happening then I'm sorry, I don't know what to say other than you are missing something in the reading. These are novels about ideas (love, death, birth, the spirit, greed) as much as actions. I couldn't concieve of reading either 'Cloud Atlas' or 'Ghostwritten' in any other way than as a novel. I don't think the book would make any sense if I dipped in and read the stories individually.

The writing itself is masterly. I find it difficult to see Mitchell's influences but for some reason I keep feeling Ray Bradbury about here somewhere - I can't figure why though. I disagree that the characters have no depth as they have no time to develop.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The structure of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten is ambitious, particularly for a debut: it is told through nine different prisms - each chapter is a new story, superficially unrelated to the others, but each has fleetingly contiguous episodes: during the first, a fugitive cultist subway bomber telephones his anonymous handler and leaves a cryptic message. In the second story we see the other end of that conversation: the phone is picked up and treated, as a crank caller, by an unwitting record shop owner from Tokyo. Later the record shop owner follows his girlfriend to Hong Kong and, in the third story, we see the pair observed from afar as passing figures by the subject of the third story, an expatriate lawyer who is involved in financial fraud. And so on. These inter-plot encounters are inevitably light and seemingly incidental, but plainly they're deliberate, knitting the narrative ever so loosely together. It's a striking effect, and led me to reflect on the way we tend to hermetically seal our compartmentalised worlds when at some level there is a fundamental interconnectedness of things, but all the same I doubt this was Mitchell's primary concern.

What it was, however, I really couldn't say. The knitting of the episodes was extremely loose, and scarcely drew tighter as the book progressed: the stories are otherwise very different, and each obliges the reader to acquaint himself with a new set of dramatis personae, infer a new set of relationships between them and absorb a new set of personalities.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best novel, but interesting to see his magic and ...
Essential infil for anyone following David Mitchell's writing career. Not his best novel, but interesting to see his magic and style evolving, and where it came from.
Published 9 days ago by Uriah Cameron
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good book
Published 14 days ago by stephen sharp
5.0 out of 5 stars ..I THINK it's masterful all David Mitchell's books, when my attention wavers I curse my own intellect and not Mr Mitchell's writing. Read more
Published 24 days ago by DL O'Connor
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant debut novel.
Ghostwritten is the first novel by British author, David Mitchell. Told by nine different narrators, with a plot spanning centuries and continents, this is an amazing debut novel. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriging
Not finished it yet, but I will. It is so typical of David Mitchell and I really don't know where it's going. I just have to find out.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs. V. A. Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and captivating
My first Mitchell book. Not at all what I expected. Slow to start, the further you read the more addictive this story becomes. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Chris Nice
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and intriguing
I'll need to read again to fully appreciate the book but on first read it absorbed and entertained. Very difficult to expalain 'what it about' save to say that its a collection of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by MR ANDREW W REGAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Will make you even more of a D. Mitchell fan
This was my second D Mitchell after Cloud Atlas, and definitely was worth investing the time in this amazing author once again. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Katie
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but not one that grabbed me
This book is a series of snapshots, vaguely linked, but which are briefly interesting of themselves. Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. Colin Moss
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising
A great read. Linked together by character and theme to create a narrative of real wonder. Each of the voices, locations and stories exist on their own and as a whole. Brilliant.
Published 8 months ago by Az
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