Carolyn's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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's review
Aug 02, 2007

it was amazing

I think people sometimes toss around the idea that something they've read or seen or heard has "changed" them. I almost never come away from something feeling changed, at least not in any way that I can immediately sense. But after I'd finished Cloud Atlas, I had this bizarre, unshakable feeling of being more connected than I was before I'd read it, not just to the people around me, but to those who'd gone before me, and those who will come after me as well.

In my opinion, this is a work of pure genius. There's certainly a clever gimmick to the novel's structure, but it isn't just cleverness for the sake of cleverness. While it can be fascinating and pleasurable to discover the ways in which Mitchell's novel fits together, the structure is also crucial to the novel's thematic concerns and to its emotional power. Of course, given the diversity of voices in the novel, readers will almost invariably come away enjoying some more than others. I enjoyed all but one of them to greater or lesser degrees--one character I started out detesting was, by the end, my favorite, and there was one story that I never cared for and felt I just had to get through it to get back to the good stuff.

There's so much going on in this book that no little review I might throw together and toss up on a website is going to do it justice, so I'm not even going to try. Primarily, it's about different types of storytelling--oral tradition, pulp fiction, journal writing and so on--and how stories can both empower us and hold power over us. (In one of the stories, missionaries on an island in the Pacific in the 1850s intertwine Christianity with the use of tobacco, addicting the native people and giving the missionaries added control.) But more than just being incredibly stimulating on an intellectual level, the novel is extremely engaging emotionally. Like the virtuosic piece of music that plays such a crucial role in the narrative, like the clouds from which both the piece and the novel take their names, the narrative, and the emotions it creates, are constantly changing shape. And like I said, by the time I was done travelling through this novel, I genuinely felt like I'd been changed, too.

(I went into this book knowing quite little, and I think it made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, so I'd strongly advise anyone who is considering reading it to avoid looking at summaries or reviews that go into much detail about the plot or structure of the book.)
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison Best review...and last review...of this book I will read. Thanks!

message 2: by Julie (new)

Julie I've been trying to start this book for awhile now and keep stalling...after reading your comment I think I'll give it another chance...I like easy to follow reads though, not necessarily literally crafted, but not too complicated to follow....thanks

Justin Great review. I feel the same way.

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