The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Book rating: 05 Paperback Sceptre

By (author) David Mitchell

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  • Publisher: Sceptre
  • Format: Paperback | 576 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 200mm x 35mm | 381g
  • Publication date: 17 March 2011
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0340921587
  • ISBN 13: 9780340921586
  • Illustrations note: 7 B&W
  • Sales rank: 4,503

Product description

In your hands is a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart. Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two cultures converge. In a tale of integrity and corruption, passion and power, the key is control - of riches and minds, and over death itself.

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Author information

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, was shortlisted for six awards including 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 Booker. 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. David Mitchell's sixth novel is The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, 2014).

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 13 Jun 2013 5

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the fifth novel by award-winning British author, David Mitchell, who classifies it as historical fiction. Jacob de Zoet is a young Dutch clerk, a Zeelander working for the Dutch East India Company, on a five-year clerical post to Java, where he hopes to make his fortune in order to marry his Dutch sweetheart. He arrives in Nagasaki with the new Chief Resident-elect of Dejima, an island enclave to which the Dutch traders are confined. Soon after his arrival, he encounters a young Japanese midwife with whom he promptly falls in love. Mitchell slowly and carefully crafts his plot to reach a dramatic climax. Mitchell's potted histories of his characters contribute to their depth and appeal, as well as developing the plot. His dialogue sounds genuine, especially the rendering of translated language. Mitchell gives the reader a fascinating peek into the world that was European trade with Japan in the late 18th century. This was a world filled with corruption, bribery, execution and religious persecution. De Zoet learns the diplomacy and the political tactics necessary in dealing with the Japanese, and that men of honour and integrity are few and far between. This novel makes the historical facts, which might have been dry and unpalatable, interesting and easy to assimilate. De Zoet is loosely based on Hendrick Doeff, one of Dejima's real Chief Residents. Mitchell does bend a few historical facts: the incident on which the climax is based actually happened somewhat later; the reference by characters in 1799 to the mass eradication of Tasmanian aborigines is premature; nonetheless, this does not detract from the novel in any way. Some of the prose is truly beautiful: Mitchell manages to be quite lyrical about clouds and weather; there are also several charming illustrations. This is a brilliant novel and easily the best I have read in a long time.

By Dan Cater 08 Aug 2011 5

In one respect, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is a finely crafted and authentic historical novel of cloistered Shogun Japan and the mortal struggle of European empires to control the fortune-building sea trade. But for the reader, that's just a particularly well painted backdrop. For us, it is a completely engaging tale of human strength and weakness, that follows the lives of an ambitious junior Dutch clerk and the strong and intelligent young Japanese woman he is smitten with.

As the plot develops, we become increasingly drawn in to Jacob and Orita's lives. We can't help but feel their hope and suffer their disappointments along with them as they are buffetted by chance and circumstance and the casually terrifying natures of others more powerful.

Mitchell has a genius for dialogue, always seeming to strike the right note. He effortlessly captures the rough accents and humourous ignorance of base waterfront bullies and just as well, creates the tension and stylised formality of the machinations of the Japanese Mandarins.

His many characters come to life through this convincing dialogue made convincing by the meticulously described environments in which they live. His gouty English captain Penhaligon aboard HMS Phoebus is just as believable as the conflicted young Japanese interpreter Uzaemon Ogawa as he struggles to find meaning in the strange phrases of his Dutch charges.

But although we're privy to all this detail, the story never drags or bottlenecks. We're whisked along in one direction, then the next and can only hold on and enjoy the thrill of the ride.

This was my first David Mitchell and I've already secured my second. The Thousand Nights will appeal to a broad audience and I highly recommended it as the best novel I've read this year.

Review quote

Compared with almost everything being written now, it is vertiginously ambitious - and brilliant The Times Spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful Sunday Times Unquestionably a marvel - entirely original among contemporary British novels, revealing its author as, surely, the most impressive fictional mind of his generation Observer A world of stories in prose that brings a lump to the throat ... David Mitchell has done it again. Independent on Sunday Arguably his finest ... It will doubtless earn Mitchell his fourth Man Booker nomination and, if there's any justice, his first win. Sunday Telegraph However densely charted and richly sketched, this sumptuous imbroglio never drags ... Mitchell flexes his prose virtuosity. More than before, those muscles do the heart's work. Independent Spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful ... a narrative of panoramic span. Mitchell fills his pages with a medley of accents, idioms and speech habits. Prodigiously researched, his book resurrects a place and period with riveting immediacy ... it brims with rich, involving and affecting humanity -- Peter Kemp Sunday Times Lose yourself in a world of incredible scope, originality and imaginative brilliance -- Katy Guest Independent on Sunday That rare thing - a novel which actually deserves the accolade "tour de force" -- Kamila Shamsie Daily Telegraph Books of the Year Moving, thoughtful and unexpectedly funny -- Richard Eyre Observer Books of the Year Hugely enjoyable ... the descriptions of Dejima and what life there must have been like are extraordinarily accurate Literary Review A masterpiece Scotsman David Mitchell is back with a bang ... superb Irish Independent Ambitious and fascinating ... Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money. Kirkus Reviews Pitch-perfect -- Boyd Tonkin Independent Books of the Year Confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive Dave Eggers, New York Times Book Review