David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was published in 2010.
David Mitchell is a British author, who has written Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green. Two of his novels were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Click here to visit David Mitchell's official website.
Here's a description of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet:
In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable.
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.
But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.
And here's the review:
A SHORT REVIEW OF DAVID MITCHELL'S THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET
So far I've written reviews about fantasy, science fiction and horror novels and novellas, but this time I'll write a short review about a historical novel, because The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is of exceptional quality and it contains a couple of slightly fantastical elements. At first I wasn't sure if I should write this review or not, because this novel isn't speculative fiction, but I decided to write it, because The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a damn good novel (and I think that several fantasy readers will enjoy reading it).
David Mitchell is an interesting author, because he writes different kind of books and he isn't afraid to blend different genres (for example, Cloud Atlas is a combination of mainstream fiction and science fiction). His new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, is a successful and satisfying combination of love story and historical adventure. It's literary fiction at its best and it's David Mitchell's best book so far.
David Mitchell spent four years working on this novel and it shows in the text: all the small details are accurate and believable, the story is intriguing and the prose is nuanced, eloquent and beautiful. It's almost amazing how beautifully the author creates a fascinating and stunning vision of Feudal Japan. By using historical details, exquisite worldbuilding and excellent characterization, he brings the story to life.
Here's a few words about the plot and the characters: The events take place in Dejima (in Nagasaki Harbor) in 1799. The artificial island of Dejima is Japan's only window to the West. The main characters are Jacob de Zoet, a clerk and Orito Aibagawa, a midwife. Jacod de Zoet tries to earn his fortune in Dejima, but fate has different things in store for him, because he falls in love with Orito Aibagawa. Uzaemon Ogawa is also an important character, because he's an interpreter. The author writes fluently about the lives of Jacob de Zoet, Orito Aibagawa and Uzaemon Ogawa. He also writes fluently about political intrigue and dark cults (dark and mysterious cults add a slightly fantastical element to this novel).
The author has divided this book into three parts: "The Bride for Whom We Dance", "A Mountain Fastness" and "The Master of Go". The first part tells how Jacob de Zoet arrives to Dejima, the second part tells what happens to Origo Aibagawa in the mountains and the third part tells how things end. Each part is different and together they form a solid novel.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet isn't a novel for hasty readers, because it's a complex and sophisticatedly written novel. It demands quite a lot from its reader, but it's worth reading, because it's a rewarding reading experience. If you like good prose and appreciate a gradually developing plot, you'll love this novel.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, but unfortunately it wasn't selected to the shortlist. In my opinion this novel should've won the Booker Prize, because it's a fascinating and extremely well written historical novel.
By the way, if somebody happens to wonder where the name of this book comes from, it's a reference to one of the native poetical names for Japan, The Land of a Thousand Autumns.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is one of the best historical novels I've ever read. It should be read by everybody, who's interested in history (and especially Japanese history). It can also be recommended to fantasy readers, because the second part of this novel reads almost like a fantasy book.