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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  34,382 ratings  ·  4,546 reviews
The author of Cloud Atlas's most ambitious novel yet, for the readers of Ishiguro, Murakami, and, of course, David Mitchell.

The year is 1799, the place Dejima, the "high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island" that is the Japanese Empire's single port and sole window to the world. It is also the farthest-flung outpost of the powerful Dutch East Indies Company. To this place
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published June 29th 2010 by Knopf Canada (first published May 13th 2010)
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Chandler Dunn The passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty…moreThe passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty with a knot. In nautical lingo "cock," or to "cock-up" something (particularly a knot), means to make a mess of it.

It may somehow be relevant that during this time Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, and Denmark had participated in two successive wars against Sweden in the decades preceding the events of the book.

There may in fact be another two or three more historical references and topical insinuations laden within this single, short sentence that I'm unaware of. Such is the genius of David Mitchell :-)(less)
Jess There is at least one link, with the Marinus character, and I believe there are others from Cloud Atlas as well (there's been 6 years between reading…moreThere is at least one link, with the Marinus character, and I believe there are others from Cloud Atlas as well (there's been 6 years between reading those 2 so I can't be certain). I'm still working on reading them all… If you haven't yet read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I highly recommend it. (less)
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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Remember Dr. Seuss's words, children: "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" In the case of wunderkind writer David Mitchell's THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, you'll set your time machine dial for 1799 and a makeshift Dutch port called Dejima on the shores of Nagasaki, Japan.

But let's take it down another level. You'll start at the port and live with old salts that'll make the Pirates of the Caribbean look like so many Lord Fauntleroys. You'll visit the homes of the secretive Japanese magistrates.
Stephen King
In this historical novel, an unassuming Dutch bookkeeper named Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a beautiful midwife in 18th-century Japan. When Miss Aiba-gawa is spirited away to a mountain monastery, Jacob finds the heroism in his soul. Here is a bygone secret world full of charm and horror. Mitchell is best known for Cloud Atlas, which was a literary stunt in this correspondent’s opinion. The Thousand Autumns is far better.
Since discovering David Mitchell a little over a year ago, I have devoured all five of his novels to date. Yet I still cannot say what it is that keeps me impatiently coming back for more.

He is a master of voices. He breathes life into characters quickly and effortlessly. He is not afraid to dive into the unknowable mysteries embedded within us. Time, life, dreams, death. Without the crutches of belief or disbelief, he dances around questions of the soul. His villains are ofttimes as compelling
A shooting star lives and dies in an instant.

I first read this when it was published in paperback, just because it was by Mitchell. I admired the craft of the writing, but overall, I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped: I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, and this seemed a very straightforward narrative in comparison with three of his four preceding books.

Now in 2014, after reading The Bone Clocks, I discover that is the second in the Marinus trilogy and this was the first. Almost immediat
A transient, dubious point of intersection with a secluded, floating world. Two disparate spheres of influence navigating a treacherous turn of the century wherein the actions of either will determine the course of future events. A clash of civilizations where all involved parties are unwilling to cede even something as basic as acknowledgement to the other. Races laboring under the virulent delusion that skin color predetermines superiority or inferiority. Love in the time of prejudice and mutu ...more
Paul Bryant


Voiceover : Lord Sugar is looking for a historical novelist to invest in. He scoured the country for the very best. Twelve were selected to begin the process. After six weeks of hard battling, only three are left.* It's the Apprentice Week Six!

(We see a montage of the three remaining contestants, David Mitchell, Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters frantically typing away on laptops).

This week's task : to write a complete historical novel in only seven days. All th
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: two headachey stars out of five

The Publisher Says: In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.

Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under
On Mitchell's Writing

Mitchell is one of my favourite writers, and I really have to squee about how masterfully he uses words. Here’s an example of his writing in this novel. Mitchell is setting a scene where Jacob is waiting in the antechamber to his new boss’s office. Along the walls of the antechamber are displayed specimens of exotic animals preserved in formaldehyde. As he looks at the specimens, Jacob recalls the events that led him to this place. Now Mitchell could have written it rather c
Ian Agadada-Davida
Exit Only Through the Sea Gate

"The Thousand Autumns" is set in Nagasaki over a period of almost 20 years beginning in 1799.

Dutch traders are restricted to an island in the harbour called "Dejima".

From the Japanese perspective, its name reflects the fact that it is an "exit island". Dutch ships arrive at and depart from the sea gate, while the Japanese officials and traders access the island through a land gate.

The Dutch are not permitted to enter Japan proper under the isolationist Sakoku pol
David Mitchell and I had not been introduced before. I knew he had written something about clouds and dreams and this looked pretty so I took it home with me.

It is a book about Jacob de Zoet, who in 1799 arrives as a clerk on Dejima, an artificial island near Nagasaki and the only point of contact between Japan and the outside world. It is also a book about an English ship and a mountain shrine and secret religious cult. It is a book about Orito, Japanese midwife whose face is half burnt but the
Last month I was visiting the MFA in Boston. After an hour or two of wandering through rooms sporting giant, bombastic 19th century American paintings, I came upon a dim hall with small, colorful prints hanging from the wall, like this one:

Sugatami Bridge, Omokage Bridge, by Utagawa Hiroshige

This was my first taste of Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and I was immediately transfixed.

Although the Edo referred to in the Hiroshige prints is a place (a city later to be renamed Tokyo), Edo also refers to the period of Japanese hist
Is there anything David Mitchell can't do? Dazzling is the word for this. Fizzing with life, it appears at first to be a conventional historical novel, but then swoops into speculative fiction that is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, with human babies being 'farmed' for nefarious reasons, then back to the historical world and a wonderfully exciting naval stand-off, where Our Hero is saved by his red hair. (You'll have to read it to find out). James Wood, a critic who I admire gr ...more
Nandakishore Varma
The story of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a divide during a turbulent historical period is the staple of many an historical novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, at first glane, is just that: however, the author has entered uncharted waters by venturing into an area which is seldom explored in historical novels, by choosing Japan during her international isolation as the venue and making the clerk of the erstwhile Dutch East India company, the unlikely hero.

Jacob de Zoet has joine
Giving this book three stars doesn't adequately represent its melange of 1-star and 5-star elements. The prose here walks a line between vivid and so purple that it's gushing persimmon juice over your lips... no, that's not quite a direct quote. The romance between two of the characters hangs on just a few meetings, one of which is an awful scene where they teach each other the words for "dew" in their respective languages. The entire middle section of the book rests on a fantastical plot elemen ...more
I was happy to see Mitchell try his hand at historical fiction. While he’s always been considered an immensely skilled writer and a superb storyteller, it's his inventive structuring that seems to bring forth the highest praise. Read Cloud Atlas to see if you agree. With this most recent work, as he said in a post-publication interview, he was trying a more straightforward narrative form – one without gewgaws (I think that was the word he used, or maybe it was “jiggery-pokery”). I’m pleased to r ...more
David Mitchell's forte is the creation of fully formed worlds with numerous living, breathing characters, all written in beautiful, engaging prose.

I didn't think the subject matter of this novel would interest me at all (a trading post? a naval battle? not for me) but I was happy to live in this world with these characters while I was reading it. The plot is intricate but not cumbersome; details have meaning.

As in Cloud Atlas, there are recurring phrases and images that echo poetically througho

I believe that David Mitchell may be, of all the contemporary authors I've read, one of the most versatile. Although I could simply be mistakenly (again) be viewing his work as versatile. I believe there are meant to be some more of his meta-linguistic features in this book. Although I didn't stop any familiar characters. Reading Black Swan Green and Ghostwritten may help me to find those little hidden characters however.

The title of this book - which I think must be classed as a kind of zany hi
Marc Kozak
**Hyperbole in all caps alert**

(pregnant lady breath - hee hee hooooo)

Being a huge nerd in a mostly non-nerd world, it's hard to contain your frothing anticipation for a book from your favorite author. How many times have you recieved an advance reading copy that
I really enjoyed this book immensely, probably a 4.5 of 5. It's so close to a 5 and someday I may return and decide it is.

The story grabbed me from the start and I believe that has to have some connection to Mitchell's skills as a writer and story teller as well as the story itself as tales of the sea and exploration are usually of no interest to me. His picture of the cultures of the time, both Japanese and the transplanted Europeans, captured my interest from the first pages and always had a f
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
(First: I won this book on a Goodreads Firstreads offer which is really cool. Thanks to Goodreads and Random House.)

I've been hooked on David Mitchell ever since he began: Who was blowing on the nape of my neck? Who indeed. And since then every book has been an event. What will he do this time?

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is both historical and imagined. It's different of course from his other novels. One comes to expect and await that in Mitchell. But there is a common thread I think,
This is a book which I ended up reading as part of the #Rainbowthon and I am very glad that it came around because it motivated me to pick up something a little different from usual and read my first David Mitchell book!

This is a very different type of story from a lot of the books I have read in the last few months/years because not only is is NOT a fantasy book, but it's actually a very lyrical and historical book with some wonderful characters and strands of narrative. When I first began this
I finished this book weeks ago but have been uncharacteristically disinclined to tackle the review for fear of lacking the skill to adequately describe it without simply stringing together a list of admiring adjectives. Epic, engrossing, suspenseful, moving, enlightening, exciting, superb, the best book I've read in years....I could go on. This is one of those rare books that we passionate readers hope for every time we crack a book but that comes along only too rarely.

Who knew that at the turn
That the cover of the trade paperback edition of David Mitchell’s 2010 novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet , is the spitting image of that of Hendrik Doeff’s nineteenth-century memoir, Recollections of Japan , is no small coincidence. Both covers, characterized by traditional Japanese art-inspired illustrations, depict the arrival of a large Western ship on Japanese shores. And rightly so, as both books tell of the experiences — fictional in one, real in the other — of an Occident liv ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This is a modern, woolly mastodon of a book, a book with tusks and chewing teeth, a throwback to the most towering storytelling in literary history. But it is also a Seraph, a three-paired-winged novel that is full of zeal and respect, humility and ethereal beauty, an airborne creature that gave me five days in heaven. And, it is a sea serpent, because it lifted itself up like a column and it grabbed and swallowed me. Whole.

Pardon me while I gush; I bow to the spirit and heartbeat of David Mitch
Mitchell is supposed to be a master of voices, but he continually uses the same framework throughout this book.

"I wonder, thought (Character A), about (subject one)"


"He stopped to consider, thought (Character B), about (issue two)"

This sentence structure is pervasive throughout the otherwise mostly enjoyable 469 page novel. It becomes a very apparent tick before long. Additionally, about half way through, I became acutely aware that I may have been reading a romance novel, or at least a very
David Mitchell makes a worthy entry into the literature of clerks with The Thousand Autumns. I've puzzled before about why clerks make such good protagonists. I think now it's because they witness misdeeds petty and grave in the course of their duties. Everyone else considers them too powerless or worn down to do anything or doesn't consider them at all because they're invisible. And then, they record accounts and aren't we all keeping accounts in our lives, hopefully of something higher and mor ...more
Listening to THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET transports one to the walled island off the coast of Nagasaki occupied by the Dutch East India Company in 1799. The Japanese intent with the artifical island was to prevent Western religion and culture from infiltrating their own. The Dutch were considered less intrusive because their aim was monitary gain only. This experiment ended less than 20 years later, and Japan's industrialization began.

The love story of Jacob and the midwife is as forbi
Jennifer (aka EM)
Wow. Stunning. Pure story-telling brilliance. I should probably go back and re-read all of Mitchell's, but frankly I read to be enmeshed in a story, and there's no one who does it better. After that, literary analysis and critique be damned.

ETA: Also, I really can't say anything beyond what Samadrita said.

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DecapStat: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 17 19 Jun 11, 2015 11:28PM  
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte ...more
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“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” 161 likes
“Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike topped walls and treble-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule-drivers, mules and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunch-backed makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed form kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries' vats; over kites unthreading corpses of cats; over scholars glimpsing truth in fragile patterns; over bath-house adulterers, heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters' sons sharpening axes; candle-makers, rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etiolated lacquerers; mottle-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; tasters; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and ageing rakes by other men's wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchased judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotted-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night-soil; gate-keepers; bee-keepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet-nurses; perjurers; cut-purses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night's rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.” 88 likes
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