Martine's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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Dec 01, 07

bookshelves: postmodern, modern-fiction, british, favourites, dystopia
Read in November, 2006

Cloud Atlas was the most challenging book I read in 2006. It was also the most rewarding. A bravura literary performance if ever I saw one, Cloud Atlas weaves together six vastly different stories which are all, in a way, about story-telling. We start reading the journal of a nineteenth-century traveller, then move on to an English snob's letters from 1930s Belgium, a 1970s California thriller, a contemporary horror film of sorts and two tales from a dystopian future, one of which is written in a somewhat-hard-to-decipher phonetic dialect. Each of these stories is completely different. Mitchell has a fabulous command of language which enables him effortlessly to switch personae and change perspectives. The result is an impressive mix of styles and genres, full of stimulating ideas on human nature and, well, lots of other things. At first, none of the six stories seems to have a proper ending (one of them even ends mid-sentence!), which is disappointing as you don't want to leave the characters just when you've become emotionally attached to them. However, once you've reached the end of story No. 6, you realise why the previous stories didn't have endings -- because Mitchell takes you back to the characters he left earlier, to show you where they fit into the magnificent tapestry he has woven, to close the circle he has begun drawing. He also subtly shows you how the stories are interconnected. It's fun picking up on these clues, though puzzling is not what the book is all about.

Now the above probably sounds like a lot of literary gimmickry, and it is. Yet the stunning thing about the book is not how well Mitchell blends genres (although he does so extremely well), but how engaging it is on an emotional level. I deeply cared for some of the characters and really, really wanted to find out how their stories ended. So there you have it -- a stylistic, intellectually stimulating tour de force which is also, somehow, a page turner. Definitely one to cherish.
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Comments (showing 1-3)




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Lori (Hellian) How can you update your status with a threat to leave us forever, and then write such a superb review?! OK even if you don't always review but sometimes just rate, like I do, I am always interested so noooooooo don't leave us!


Martine Heh. You do realise this is an old review, right, Lori? In fact, it's one of the first I wrote when I joined Goodreads, which explains why it's of a manageable size and relatively devoid of details or pseudo-philosophising. I believed in keeping things to the point at the time. :-)

That aside, I do appreciate your kind words. Very much so, in fact. I'll see what I can do for you, but I won't make any promises...


message 1: by Dottie (new)

Dottie Martine -- Yes, earlier review -- yes, less involved, shorter, etc but clearer and with more "meat" than anything I've yet written on a review. A return to your earlier mode of operation might be part of the answer, Martine. Give it a try at least -- your reviews have been great from the start, really.


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