A pious 18th Century Dutch clerk ships off to the Far East to make his fortune, promising to return to marry his sweetheart. Once in a Japanese trading colony though he becomes embroiled in the machinations of corrupt officialdom, and falls in love with an unobtainable Japanese midwife. Suddenly she is ripped away from him to become a nun in a convent with a very dark secret. As our hero contemplates rescuing her the British navy appears over the horizon, all guns blazing.
This novel seem to have divided fans of David Mitchell and newcomers alike. Personally, I found that although it was a slow starter which needed a bit of getting into, I was eventually gripped by a very compelling plot.
There are a lot of characters to get a grip on but the evocation of the Dutch community in Japan, and the British frigate's crew I found especially well done.
Its a rare literary novel which contains as much derring do and action plotting as this. Not Mitchell's best but very enjoyable. And of course lesser Mitchell is still head and shoulders ahead of the herd.