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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  29,465 ratings  ·  2,559 reviews
A gallery attendant at the Hermitage. A young jazz buff in Tokyo. A crooked British lawyer in Hong Kong. A disc jockey in Manhattan. A physicist in Ireland. An elderly woman running a tea shack in rural China. A cult-controlled terrorist in Okinawa. A musician in London. A transmigrating spirit in Mongolia. What is the common thread of coincidence or destiny that connects ...more
Paperback, 426 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Vintage (first published August 19th 1999)
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Nic Dafis True devotees read one section at a time, starting with "Okinawa" in Ghostwritten, then "Lost Property" in number9dream, then "The Pacific Journal of …moreTrue devotees read one section at a time, starting with "Okinawa" in Ghostwritten, then "Lost Property" in number9dream, then "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Part 1)" from Cloud Atlas, and so on until you get to his latest book. Read the first and *last* sections of that, then start working your way back, reading the final sections of everything until you reach "Underground" in Ghostwritten, from whence you loop back around through the second sections of each book. You get the idea.

If he publishes a new book during this process, you have to start again, otherwise it'll make no sense.(less)
Heidi I can only speak for his newest novel (Utopia Avenue), but that one is not a short story compilation. I don't believe his others are either :) …moreI can only speak for his newest novel (Utopia Avenue), but that one is not a short story compilation. I don't believe his others are either :) (less)

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Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing

There are so many people living in the world. We jostle up against each other in subway stations in Tokyo.

We crowd into art galleries in Petersburg, vying for the best location to view the masterpieces on display.

We take trains and planes around the world, with mountains, plains, rivers, valleys, and, above all, people rushing by us, in a blur.

Holy Mountains, China

Where is there a place for the individual in the midst of this overwhelming motion?

Still from Koyaanisqatsi

In his first novel, Gho
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”There is truth, and then there is Being Truthful.

Being Truthful is just one more human activity, along with chatting up women, ghostwriting, selling drugs, running a country, designing radiotelescopes, parenting, drumming, and shoplifting. All are susceptible to adverbs. You can be truthful well or badly, frankly or slyly, and you can choose to do it and not to do it….

Truth’s indifference is immutable.”

Have you ever had anyone say to you...Just tell me the truth?

So I ponder what someone wants
Vit Babenco
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who paints historical murals? Who writes the annals of history?
History is made of people’s desires.

And quite so often it is made of failed desires…
The double-crossed, might-have-been history of my country is not the study of what actually took place here: it’s the study of historians’ studies.

The history we know isn’t the real history – it’s a ghostwritten history.
Evolution and history are the bagatelle of particle waves.

All in this world is interconnected by the play of chance and history is a
D. Pow
Sep 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book blew my mind. This book also ripped out my heart and stomped on it and then stuffed the battered organ back in my chest cavity, breathed feathery soft on it and set it pumping again. It was that good, that moving, that inspiring. It brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion and left me feeling that wonderful mind expanding, worldview shifting buzz that only art (or sex, or chocolate) of the highest order can accomplish. I feel subtlety changed by this book.

First off, it engag
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, favorites
Loved revisiting this first foray into the Mitchellverse. As snappy and ambitious as always, with some added crassness and rougher edges owing to being a debut. Still definitely an outstanding work!
We abdicate certain freedoms, and in return we get civilization. We get protection from death by starvation, bandits and cholera. It’s a fair deal. Signed on our behalf by our educational system on the day we are born. However, we all have an inner self, that decides to what degree we honour this cont
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Starstruck Lover

David Mitchell is a five star author and this, his first novel, is a five star achievement. I think.

I’ve been lucky to read most of his novels in chronological order as they’ve been released. Joining Goodreads has presented an opportunity to re-read and review them.

I still adhere to the rating, even if it emerges that I have a few question marks about some of his stylistic choices.

What this reveals is that a highly competent author, even with his first novel, doesn’t have to writ
This predates the more famous “Cloud Atlas” ( by about four years; it has similarities of theme (connectedness, migrating spirits), structure (linked narratives, in contrasting styles), and even characters, but in a less contrived format. The subtitle is “A novel in nine parts”, and although some of the earlier ones could be read as standalone short stories, that would be missing the point, particularly with the later sections. Much as I love Cloud Atlas, ...more
Steven Godin

David Mitchell's first novel is a striking and stylized Piece of writing, that lights the fuse and fires off into ten different narratives, globe-trotting from Asia to Europe and back again. Starting with the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, we would move to a young jazz buff falling in love, a tea shack in a China gripped by the revolution, a spiritual awakening in Mongolia, some dodgy characters involved with art fraud in Petersberg, and a ghost writer in London that lives above a p
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
’The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed.’
David Mitchell’s ambitious debut, Ghostwritten, is a world of stories that migrates across the globe like a cloud across the sky, shifting and refiguring between various narrator voices and style. These voices send out ripples into the fabric of reality, which start off small but compound to forever reshape the course of humanity as the reader delves deeper into the novel, placin
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
The idea of crossed paths has always fascinated me. The randomness of it, of chance encounters and all the serendipitous circumstances that bring two people together, if only for a few seconds.
Whenever I sit next to a complete stranger, my imagination is set on fire. I can’t help wondering all kind of things about him or her. Where is that person going? From where? Is he or she happy with life, with his/her circumstances? My mind starts creating a story, almost involuntarily, tying up the knots
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I feel like any review I make of this novel will be an unfair one, so I heartily recommend that you read some of the absolutely gorgeous reviews already out there, but I will leave you with a single impression:

The Uncertainty principle Thus applied to writing fiction (or Science Fiction): You can know where a story is at any point in time or you can know its velocity (it's pacing), but you can never know both at the same time.


Seriously, this book is pretty damn awesome. Each of the nine viewpo
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-english
How dare I write yet another review of Ghostwritten, when most of my GR friends have read, loved, and written fantastic reviews on this book already? I have LIKED Kris’s, and S.Penkevich’s.

So, I will refer my reader to those reviews and here I will only record some loose thoughts.

As with any thing that is openly praised by most, I was a bit apprehensive to approach David Mitchell. Satisfaction is the difference between Attainment and Expectations.

But I have liked the book even though I had to wa
Nat K
”Clouds began to ink out the stars, one by one.”

To say I’m overawed and overwhelmed is an understatement. This was David Mitchell’s first book??? How is that even possible? Incredible. Provocative. Smart.

On finishing this, I simply felt like my brain had exploded 💥 It just blew me away so much. It’s one of those books that reels you in, and keeps tightening the net, until you’re completely captivated and under its spell.

I spent so much time highlighting chapters, writing in margins, making link
Nandakishore Mridula
Oh my God. Can David Mitchell write.

Reading this book, you will never think it's a first novel; Mitchell's mastery of the written word is so consummate. The prose flows, one word after another, forming sentences, paragraphs and chapters in natural progression. The skill of the author is evident in the fact that he himself is invisible - the story seems to write itself, thus justifying the title of the novel in a fashion.

This novel -"in nine parts", as Mitchell calls it - is a series of interconn
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018

Like the great Russians, Mitchell makes us feel that more is at stake than individual lives, although it's by individual lives that pain and loss are measured.

I don't usually start my reviews with cover blurbs, but this one from 'Los Angeles Times' seems appropriate for describing in a very concise form the scope of the project and the underlying humanism of the intellectual exercise.

Also appropriate, in retrospect, is the use of a quote from Thornton Wilder's "The Bridge of San Luis Rey
"I wonder what happened to him, I wonder what happened to all of them, this wondering is the nature of matter, each of us a loose particle, an infinity of paths through the park, probable ones, improbable ones, none of them real until observed whatever real means, and for something so solid matter contains terrible, terrible, terrible expanses of nothing, nothing, nothing..."

Ordinary human lives, sometimes crisscrossing, sometimes briefly touching, sometimes swiftly passing each other by thr
Krok Zero
May 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2010
Oh dear. All the cool kids love David Mitchell. I want to be one of the cool kids! But I won't lie to you, cool kids: this book frustrated the hell out of me, at times outright pissed me off, despite my respect for Mitchell's dexterity hat-trick (intellectual, narrative, verbal). It's the kind of book that made me scarf down the last 100 pages in a single day, breathlessly turning pages in the hopes of making sense of its head-scratching patchwork, only to put down the tome humming that Peggy Le ...more
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
The most admirable thing about this novel is its ambition. Had I read this when it came out and Mitchell was a new unknown author maybe I would have been a lot more impressed. But having read Mitchell’s best novels my expectations were, unfairly perhaps, up very high. The ten episodes that make up this novel deal with globalisation, terrorism, banking fraud, conspiracy theory, particle physics – in other words the most pressing issues of our times.

The biggest problem for me was I found the char
Megan Baxter
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ghostwritten, and ghostridden and by a ghost, ridden.

This is my second David Mitchell, and I like it almost as much as the first one I read, which was Cloud Atlas, and absolutely blew my socks off. I think Cloud Atlas is a more masterful and audacious use of the same technique that you can see developing in Ghostwritten, but I enjoyed it in its developing stages here quite a lot.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You ca
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
The 'G' on my keyboard barely works. I keep typing host for ghost. But that's all right - hosts and ghosts are the point in Ghostwritten. A similar problem could have given me ghost-ridden, which this book is (there's even a Caspar) yet it's the hosts here that are the most interesting, not the ghost surfing.

Mitchel's characters are real - the man knows how to write, as I found out in Cloud Atlas. There, the connection between the characters is metafictional. In Ghostwritten it is metaphysical.
Matt Quann
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5 Selected Pairings for David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten

1. A Pot of Light/Dark Roast Blend

You’ll want yourself a large pot of coffee to go along with Ghostwritten, one that gives you a boost of caffeine, but doesn’t sacrifice the rich complexity of the best mugs of java. Like the coffee, Ghostwritten is an energetic and complex blend. You’ll want coffee as a companion through the read, but also to help you stay sharp as Mitchell challenges and demands your attention.

2. 22, A Million by Bon Iver

Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s easy to miss an important reference, or two, or three, while reading a David Mitchell novel – I learned that the hard way. After flipping the final page of the Ghostwritten, I did one of these moves: (think Lou Costello).

Then I swallowed my pride and headed off to Wiki to find some answers. Here’s me while reading Wikipedia’s page on Ghostwritten: “Missed that…Definitely didn’t see that…Was that even in the book?...Hey, there’s something I remember!” I’m exaggerating a little, but you get t
Caro the Helmet Lady
It's pretty hard to write about the book that I was rather breathing than reading. Yes, I loved it. As much as I liked (adored) Cloud Atlas, I'd probably rate this one a bit higher (but only in my mind, because GR has no half stars, boo). This was Mitchell's debut book, which is kind of incredible. To write in a language that is so beautiful, to create worlds that are so polished and so finished - for a debut!
The novel is a set of 9 stories that are connected by a net of coincidences, characters
I want to shout from the rooftops about how much I loved this book! I don't think this is going to be a very coherent review, as it's another of those books that is difficult to describe without giving everything away. Ghostwritten was David Mitchell's debut, published in 1999, and it is similar to his better-known Cloud Atlas in that it consists of a number of diverse - but interconnected - stories (and, indeed, a number of characters from that book also make appearances here). It's hugely ente ...more
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
With Ghostwritten you catch glimpses and sometimes even longer scenes of the feature-length greatness that’s to come in Cloud Atlas. This was Mitchell’s publishing debut. As may be true of many first works, he could barely contain all that he wanted to say. It was chock full of people, places and ideas. He gave himself nine very different vehicles for addressing the question of why things happen as they do. The settings of the nine stories span Asia, Europe, and the US. Good, bad, young, old, Ea ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
David Mitchell is brilliant. Hard to believe this is his first novel.

I wish that I had read David Mitchell's novels in the order they were written. He not only is the master of linked narratives he links his books/characters both forwards and backwards as well.

I really liked the interconnectedness (is that a word?) in this novel. Not just between the stories but the bigger notion of being connected in the world.

I only have 2 of his novels left to read so I hope he writes another one soon.
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, uk, top-ten-2020
I'm kicking myself for not jumping on the Mitchell bandwagon sooner. I loved the focus on interconnectedness and the debate of fate vs. free will. "We're all ghostwritters, my boy. And it's not just our memories. Our actions, too. We all think we're in control of our own lives, but really they're pre-ghostwritten by forces around us." And this: "The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed."

Mitchell utilizes a wide array of ch
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ghostwritten is one of those books which, halfway through, you know they are right in the 4-star territory and that the ending will be decisive as to whether it will be a 3, 4 or 5-star case. My rating tells a story.

What a ride it was! In Ghostwritten David Mitchell invites us on a journey which starts in Okinawa and takes us to Tokyo, Honk Kong, Holy Mountain of China, Mongolia, Petersburg, London, Clear Island of Ireland and New York before it ends right where it started. Each chapter consists
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Memories are their own descendents masquerading as the ancestors of the present.”
― David Mitchell, Ghostwritten


So Kill me. I really like David Mitchell, and reading this knowing it was his first novel is one of those things you can only really believe if you've read his other novels. This seems like an embryonic version of Cloud Atlas, with a lot of the same ideas, themes, and even a borrowed character or two. But that seems unfair, because most floret-novels never actually seem beautiful befo
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not even sure where to start here, friends. Ghostwritten is like a bunch of short stories that take place all over the world, and they all connect. Sometimes those connections are easy to find, and sometimes you have to go back to a previous story to remind yourself who someone was and what they did and all that.

It’s a wonderful book, really. It’s hard to even pin down to a specific genre. Hard to even convey coherent thoughts about it. Hard to even describe the plot to you, honestly. Do you li
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte ...more

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