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Ghostwritten Paperback – 20 Apr 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 2 edition (20 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340739754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340739754
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,140 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

"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, multi-layered novel . . . Mitchell also captures a tenderness, a yearning for something deeper, just below what often appears in as a bleak and cheerless surface (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. (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 (Adam Lively Observer)

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)

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

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

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
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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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 7 July 2009
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
Ghostwritten has all the hallmarks of a dry run for David Mitchell's massive novel Cloud Atlas; though the ambition is large it produces less of a sprawl in this earlier novel and the links between the nine disparate characters are more obvious. Ghostwritten encompasses settings in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Petersburg, London, Clear Island off the coast of Northern Ireland and finally, a New York disc-jockey's studio. The links between them are cleverly made and the characters involved range from a saran-gas terrorist on the Tokyo Metro tube to an ethical female physicist tracked by the FBI to a tiny Atlantic island. The ghosts alluded to in the title are variously a small girl in a Hong Kong high-rise, a sentient being in Outer Mongolia desperate to trace the inception of his transmigratory soul, and, more literally, a young writer in London who is ghosting the biography of a minor intellectual polymath nearing the end of his life.

Adventurous, provoking and intriguingly constructed, this is an absorbing read from beginning to end. Characterisation is handled with flair - male and female - and some sections of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, while others feature conspiracy theory, the frailties of stock-market excess, art fraud and, in one case, the history of Chinese Communism as it affects a young girl living with her father on a Holy Mountain.

The `ghost' theme fragments and fractures at various points, and to some extent exists where an overarching plot might ordinarily have been. As a linking device it is not quite strong enough, but Mitchell's theme also coheres by virtue of his greater interest in story. It is as a story-teller that he excels in this novel. The ending attempts to tie the stories together, with an apocalyptical climax.
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