Monday, September 20, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

Immersing yourself within the covers of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is a literary treat. The readers on the audio CD are also very good in their presentation of David Mitchell’s writing expertise. Sometimes the accents do not sound realistic but for the most part it is an enjoyable listening experience.

A mix of historical fiction, suspense, political intrigue, and a touching love story, this novel begins in 1799 in Diejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the farthest outpost of the Dutch East Indies Company. Jacob De Zoet arrives as the new clerk in hopes of earning a fortune so he can wed his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. Japan is a closed country for foreigners and the Dutch are their sole trading partners. In the opening chapters it takes a while to engage and understand the action and characters since the scenes jump around but soon one figures it out. After finishing the novel I was amazed by the quality of its construction. The themes, the action, the setting and the characterization all mesh in a seamless story.

Obviously well researched, the book flows beautifully with countless poetic passages, dialogue with subtle humor, and suspenseful scenes that appeal to both female and male readers. What I found particularly beautiful was the portrayal of men acting honorably amid corruption, greed, lust, and deception. With wondrous writing, Mitchell exposes the love between fathers and sons, respect for women and what it means to be a man.