DubaiReader'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
Aug 30, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: 2011, audible
Read in August, 2011

One word - irritating.

I must begin this review with by acknowledging my utmost respect for the narrators, Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox, who struggled nobly through the myriad of Dutch and Japanese names that must have been nigh impossible to read in hard copy. Unfortunately, in contrast, remembering all these names, without the ability to backtrack a few pages to check them out, was also impossible, and even half way through the book, there were still numerous characters whose identity baffled me. I think this book will join Wolf Hall as a book that I would never have struggled to complete if I hadn't been listening to the narrated Audible version. In spite of this, however, it was an endurance rather than a pleasure and the final sentance was a relief.

The main part of the book covers just a few years at the turn of the 18th century, when a lowly clerk woos above his station and is rewarded with a 5 year stint working for the East India Company in Dejema, Japan. - A resoundingly successful way of removing unsuitable suitors! This lowly clerk is Dutchman, Jacob de Zoet of the title, and he seems to be pretty much the only honest character amongst a cast of thousands. The intruige and double crossing that he meets on arrival in Dejima made for difficult reading and seemed to be the main feature of the early chapters. Again he chooses an unsuitable love interest, more frustration for the reader.
The middle section introduces us to a shrine inland from Nagasaki, where all is not as it should be. Without giving away too much, all I can say is that this was the more readable part and probably the only section that gripped me at all.
Finally, the British ship arrives, under Dutch flag. Maybe all's fair in love and war but that did seem particularly despicable!
Jacob de Zoet shows his true colours, his final years are rushed through (thankfully) and we can all go home.

So, I have learned a little about Japan and its history in the early eighteenth century. I did find the Japanese customs and laws interesting, but underhand double dealing does not interest me at all and unfortunately, a lot of the book centred around the schemings of the Dutch.
There was also a fair bit of overly poetic writing and sentances intertwined with other sentances over long, laborious passages.

I loved Black Swan Green but The Thousand Autumns is barely 2 stars for me, and it only gets that because I reserve one star for books I abandon.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Caterer Thank you, DubaiReader, for echoing my own thoughts on this book. I'm mystified by how many glowing reviews this has received. It's not that I think it's worthless or that I don't see how some might like it--but I'm baffled by the effusive praise it's gotten. I'd have psoted my own review if I wasn't under a pile of work.

DubaiReader Hi!
I just had the same conversation with Kim - you're not in the same BG are you??

message 3: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Caterer We are! She emailed me and mentioned you'd posted a review, so I read it. No one in our BC liked this book, yet it's garnered a surprising amount of praise.

DubaiReader I would never have finished it if I'd been reading it, fortunately it was an audiobook and those awful names were read correctly (presumably)!
Still, I never did work out who all the interpreters were!!

message 5: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Caterer I gave up trying to remember everyone. I only kept slogging through because it was a BC book and I'd already invested so much time in it. Also, I was told that if I made it to Part II, it would read "like a thriller." Well, yes, it was more engrossing (hardly a thriller!), but since I hadn't been much invested up till then, it was too little, too late--and then we're just left hanging. I think if the author had picked a story--ANY story--and stuck to it, made it smaller, more intimate, maybe it could have been saved. Anyway, glad to hear your thoughts! I'm following your reviews now!

I haven't posted much on Goodreads, but as my work eases up, I plan to get more involved, because I really like it.

DubaiReader Even the 'thriller' part was frustrating - all that escaping and then she turns round a nd goes back! OK, loyal and all that, but I was saying 'oh no, you fool!'
And then her lover dies - one of the few characters I cared about!

Don't get me stated!!

Hope you get the time to start to posting more reviews, I love how this site e mails reviews regularly.

Elizabeth I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one mystified about the hype about this book. I couldn't even finish it- got up to page 140 and didn't feel like slogging through. Frankly I was quite disappointed because I really loved his book " Ghostwritten" and had high hopes for this one. I just got more frustrated as I read, especially, as has been mentioned, trying to remember the character names.

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