J. Trott's Reviews > The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
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's review
Jun 08, 11

really liked it
Read in June, 2011

This is a love story, a story about two cultures, and a story about faith, set in late eighteenth century Japan's border island, where the Dutch are allowed to trade with the otherwise isolated nation. In it Mitchell continues to demonstrate more raw story telling virtuosity than any living author. The critique of him so far has been his effortlessness, the technical brilliance perhaps overshadowing the attachments that the author and reader need to develop for the characters for the book to truly stick. I will venture that in this narrative the reader will find a greater heart connection to the characters.

This book does have parts in which the pacing may test those of lesser patience at the beginning as the exposition of the Dutch East Indian Trading Company is slow. I found the history and character establishment here enough to get me through, but for fans of Mitchell, this will be a surprise, as I have usually struggled to maintain other aspects of my life as I gnaw through the pages of one of his novels. The second movement of the plot features monks, and samurais dressing up like ninjas, which Mitchell writes well enough for the reader to engage it, but part of me wonders if this comic book proportions of this part of the book serve the whole. The rest of it relies so heartily on an accurate, often humorous rendition of everyday interactions between characters of different moral fiber, and the Dutch and Japanese culture.

This narrative stars a Calvinist, and being one myself, I can say that I have read one so well written in modern times, the current fashion regarding Calvinism being to throw around nonsense that one learned in High School World History, rather than do any actual research. That accuracy gives me faith that the descriptions of the Dutch and Japanese of that time are also on point. They are tremendous. There are any number of memorable characters who appear in this book. One could write an intriguing essay on leadership, using six or seven different characters.

I meander. I recommend the book. If you read, talk to me about it, because I'm excited about it.

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J.A. You're the one who introduced me to David Mitchell. I bought this book last year when I got frustrated with waiting on it from the library and our USA time was dwindling . . some parts are dense enough that it takes perseverance to push through, but he so completely recreates a sliver of history that I knew nothing about it was worth it, and there were elements of courage and redemption. Liked it a lot. Jennifer

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