- Publisher: Sceptre
- Format: Hardback | 480 pages
- Dimensions: 158mm x 234mm x 38mm | 739g
- Publication date: 13 May 2010
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0340921560
- ISBN 13: 9780340921562
- Illustrations note: 7 B&W
- Sales rank: 10,531
THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER David Mitchell's novels have captivated critics and readers alike, as his Man Booker shortlistings and Richard & Judy Book of the Year award attest. Now he has written a masterpiece. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the kind of book that comes along once in a decade - enthralling in its storytelling, imagination and scope. Set at a turning point in history on a tiny island attached to mainland Japan, David Mitchell's tale of power, passion and integrity transports us to a world that is at once exotic and familiar: an extraordinary place and an era when news from abroad took months to arrive, yet when people behaved as they always do - loving, lusting and yearning, cheating, fighting and killing. Bringing to vivid life a tectonic shift between East and West, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is dramatic, funny, heartbreaking, enlightening and thought-provoking. Reading it is an unforgettable experience.
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David Mitchell's first novel, GHOSTWRITTEN, was awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, NUMBER9DREAM, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and his third novel, CLOUD ATLAS, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize and won the British Book Awards Best Literary Fiction and South Bank Show Literature Prize. His previous novel, BLACK SWAN GREEN, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award.
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith 08 Jul 2010
This novel opens in 1799, on the island of Dejima in Nagasaki Bay, where the Dutch East India Company was the sole trading point between Europe and the isolationist Japanese. Young Dutch clerk Jacob de Zoet has been tasked with stamping out corruption.
The Company desires me, sir, to be thorough in all things.'
Dejima is a small island and is inhabited only by translators, prostitutes and traders. Access to mainland Japan is over a small fiercely guarded bridge. The Europeans resident on Dejima are isolated in every sense.
Jacob de Zoet is drawn to Orito, a midwife who has found favour with Hiroshima's governor and has been permitted greater contact with the Europeans as a consequence. Orito is working with Dr Marinus, the resident physician. Jacob and Orito fall in love, but culture and politics keep them separated. Jacob falls out of favour with his superior, and Orito is sold to a shrine after her father dies. These separate events, and what follows, serve to underline the difference between two very different worlds.
Details beget facts, and facts, judiciously sent forth, become assassins.'
Meanwhile, world events are changing the balance of power between the Dutch and the British. This becomes clear when Captain John Penhaligon of the British Navy sails into Dejima with a view to dislodging the Dutch.
Everything is happening too slow and too fast and all at once.'
This is a wonderful work of fiction. The main stories are those of Jacob de Zoet and Orito and to a lesser extent John Penhaligon. While the underlying historical basis is solid, not all facts and dates are accurate. But it doesn't matter, not for this story. This novel has its own rules, and is enhanced by the rich detail in the writing. And the ending? I think it's best to read the novel to appreciate the context.
Looking backwards, Jacob sees pages from the months and years ahead.'
Compared with almost everything being written now, it is vertiginously ambitious - and brilliant...He can write as thrillingly about large-scale events as he can about the tiny details of the private world. Such fluent and masterful command of both domains seems the stuff of a true artist's gifts The Times Unquestionably a marvel - entirely original among contemporary British novels, revealing its author as, surely, the most impressive fictional mind of his generation Observer Mitchell gives us a world of stories in prose that brings a lump to the throat...dive in and lose yourself in a world of incredible scope, originality and imaginative brilliance. David Mitchell has done it again. Independent on Sunday Spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful...it brims with rich, involving and affecting humanity. Sunday Times Arguably his finest...Every sentence yields glorious surprises that no one else could think up...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 Hugely enjoyable...the descriptions of Dejima and what life there must have been like are extraordinarily accurate Literary Review David Mitchell is back with a bang...superb Irish Independent For a tour de force, it's surprisingly nimble, emotionally complex and simply unforgettable. Scotland on Sunday 'Ambitious and fascinating...Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money.' Kirkus Reviews A masterpiece Scotsman My favourite new novel of the year, by a very long way ... People will still be marvelling at THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET decades after last year's award winners have been forgotten. Gary Dalkin, Vector, Books of the Year