Neil White's Reviews > Ghostwritten

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
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's review
Nov 13, 12

Read from August 03 to November 02, 2012

This was the only Mitchell I hadn't read, and his first published novel, so I have to admit I wasn't expecting much. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised at just how masterful Mitchell was almost immediately. There are few growing pains and first novel mistakes here. From the start he writes with authority, and masters different voices and interweaving narratives almost flawlessly. This was an ambitious first novel as well, and it's easy to see the seeds of a masterpiece like "Cloud Atlas" growing in his mind.

The story here follows nine different characters - all but one narrated in first person - as they go about their normal or abnormal lives, each profoundly and unknowingly influencing the others, and by extension the world at large. I don't want to give away too many details, because half the fun is watching Mitchell's world unfold page by page - first Tokyo, to Hong Kong, to Petersburg, to London, and so on. I think my favorite part about reading this book was starting a new section and finding out where and how the previous chapters would come into play - sometimes through interweaving characters, sometimes just in an offhand comment about a sister's nephew - you never know, so you have to pay attention.

You'd think with a debut novel as ambitious as this that it might be uneven, but it really isn't - the voices are distinct and unique, and I'm hard pressed to find sections weaker than others, and while some were more interesting, none of them really fall flat. Towards the end the novel does take a turn for the sort of dance around the edge of science fiction that Mitchell likes to do, which can be a bit jarring if you're not accustomed to his other works like "Cloud Atlas" or "Thousand Autumns", but it's hardly a deal-breaker. I'm still not sure what Mitchell's end game one, and the end seemed rather odd and abrupt, so I'm going back to re-read that, but on the whole this is an incredible debut, and I'd recommend it for any fan of Mitchell - this is definitely not one of those shaky to shy away from.

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08/26/2012 page 106
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