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Ghostwritten Paperback – 20 Apr 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


An astonishing debut. (Independent)

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

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

If you want to know what the distinctive literature of the 21st century will look like, begin here. (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
I've read all the reviews here, and maybe I am missing something here. My take on the book is that all nine sections are completely related - each of the narrators has been possessed by a 'spirit' at some point, thus the novel is 'Ghostwritten' as it is the 'spirit' writing the stories of the people it inhabits? Maybe I am way off track. One of the spirits narrates one chapter, and reveals that it inhabited the woman on Holy Mountain in the previous chapter. At the end of the book in the Night Train section, a spirit is a caller on to the radio show and when asked 'How many are you?' it replies 'Five that I've encountered. Three others I've heard of' then says 'They squander their gift. They transmigrate into human chaff for hosts, and meditate upon nothingness upon mountains'. Surely this is the connection between the stories that makes them a whole stand-alone novel? I admit I may be totally wrong, and it took me a few days to figure it out! I loved the book, though I did find the Clear Island chapter not as strong as the rest, and would recommend David Mitchell to anyone. Whether his books work or not is up to you, but the guy is a genius simply for what he attempts to do with the novel in today's 'chick lit' and 'lad lit' saturated marketplace.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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