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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Paperback – 17 Mar 2011
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Confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive. (Dave Eggers New York Times Book Review)
Spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful. (Sunday Times)
The most impressive fictional mind of his generation. (Observer)
A novel which actually deserves the accolade "tour de force". (Kamila Shamsie, Books of the Year Daily Telegraph)
Lose yourself in a world of incredible scope, originality and imaginative brilliance. (Katy Guest Independent on Sunday)
Brilliant. (The Times)
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial and Commonwealth Writers' PrizesSee all Product description
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The ending of the book is beautifully written and heartbreakingly poignant.
I'd recommend it as a good read – but not a great one.
Jacob De Zoet is a naïve man trying to do the right thing. He wears his principles like a jacket and of course the low cunning of the scoundrels around him exploit this weakness. The story is set on a trading post on a man made atoll called Dejima on the shores of Japan in the late 1700's.
It was this unique setting with Japan trying to reach out from the stagnation of centuries of closed borders that held my attention. There was unrequited love, beauty, heroics and layers upon layers. Not one for those that like a quick and easy read but if you enjoy depth and detail this will leave you enchanted.
This is a long novel at over 500 pages, and I could see why some reviewers might consider the first half as quite slow, but Mitchell does establish a convincing sense of place and I enjoyed the twists and turns as Jacob learns the realpolitik of the island of Dejima and its dealings with the mainland Japan.
The concluding story on the arrival of HMS Phoebus was excellent, and the postscript on Jacob's return to the Netherlands was quite beautiful. A wonderful tale you can become immersed in and savor that retains some of the "strangeness" of Cloud Atlas.
The first half is slow, and it does lend itself to small bites. Yet it is still engaging. As it gathers pace, the story becomes compelling, building toward a wonderful climax. As with all of Mitchell's work, it is beautifully and flawlessly written. The prose, sometimes stunning, never gets in the way of the story, as is the case with some author literary authors.
The flaws? I did find the naivety of Jacob de Zoet and Orito a little overplayed, and there were several occasions where they failed to pick up on hints or events that seemed blatantly obvious. Some of the plot twists, such as the true purpose of Shiranui, were easily guessed.
This didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story, however. There are few authors out there at the moment who can compete with Mitchell at his best.