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Ghostwritten [Paperback]

David Mitchell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Mar 2007

An apocalyptic cult member carries out a gas attack on a rush-hour metro, but what links him to a jazz buff in downtown Tokyo? Or to a Mongolian gangster, a woman on a holy mountain who talks to a tree, and a late night New York DJ?

Set at the fugitive edges of Asia and Europe, Ghostwritten weaves together a host of characters, their interconnected destinies determined by the inescapable forces of cause and effect. A magnificent achievement and an engrossing experience, David Mitchell's first novel announced the arrival of one of the most exciting writers of the twenty-first century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 2 edition (8 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340739754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340739754
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,199 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). It has already been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 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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8 of 8 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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17 of 18 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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40 of 43 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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22 of 24 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't help but compare...
Doesn't quite achieve the majesty of Cloud Atlas, which is probably impossible but a necessary comparison. The characters are less thrilling and the mystical a bit more obvious. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Steppers
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
Brilliant, unusual book. Thought it a bit strange at first but stick with it. Each chapter is about a different person but has a link with a previous chapter. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Jaby
4.0 out of 5 stars A good literary read
Layered, connected, becomes more compelling as it goes on. A good literary read.
Published 11 days ago by AnneC
2.0 out of 5 stars short stories
This was a struggle to read at first as I didn't like the subject matter of the opening. To me this was just a book of short stories although some had a tenuous link but others... Read more
Published 1 month ago by shirlso
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read with beautiful settings and a range of interesting...
An enjoyable read with beautiful settings and a range of interesting characters and scenarios that were somewhat interconnected. For me, Cloud Atlas was superior.
Published 1 month ago by KRz1981
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 1 month ago by Uriah Cameron
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good book
Published 2 months 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 2 months 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 5 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 5 months ago by Mrs. V. A. Tyler
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