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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  62,443 ratings  ·  6,358 reviews
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of ...more
Hardcover, U.S. Edition, 479 pages
Published June 29th 2010 by Random House (first published May 13th 2010)
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Chandler Dunn The passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty wit…moreThe passage is surely meant to be humorous, but given the context I think the author is implying that a certain Danish sailor is having difficulty with a knot. In nautical lingo "cock," or to "cock-up" something (particularly a knot), means to make a mess of it.

It may somehow be relevant that during this time Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, and Denmark had participated in two successive wars against Sweden in the decades preceding the events of the book.

There may in fact be another two or three more historical references and topical insinuations laden within this single, short sentence that I'm unaware of. Such is the genius of David Mitchell :-)(less)

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Stephen King
In this historical novel, an unassuming Dutch bookkeeper named Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a beautiful midwife in 18th-century Japan. When Miss Aiba-gawa is spirited away to a mountain monastery, Jacob finds the heroism in his soul. Here is a bygone secret world full of charm and horror. Mitchell is best known for Cloud Atlas, which was a literary stunt in this correspondent’s opinion. The Thousand Autumns is far better.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Remember Dr. Seuss's words, children: "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" In the case of wunderkind writer David Mitchell's THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, you'll set your time machine dial for 1799 and a makeshift Dutch port called Dejima on the shores of Nagasaki, Japan.

But let's take it down another level. You'll start at the port and live with old salts that'll make the Pirates of the Caribbean look like so many Lord Fauntleroys. You'll visit the homes of the secretive Japanese magistrates.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: snoot, japan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A shooting star lives and dies in an instant.

I first read this when it was published in paperback, just because it was by Mitchell. I admired the craft of the writing, but overall, I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped: I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, and this seemed a very straightforward narrative in comparison with three of his four preceding books.

Now in 2014, after reading The Bone Clocks, I discover that is the second in the Marinus trilogy and this was the first. Almost immediat
Vit Babenco
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The main hero is surrounded with perfidy on all sides - greedy and perfidious compatriots, secretive and treacherous natives, conniving and wily invaders.
We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.

He is the only man brave enough to love but he is paid with hatred. But "hatred eats haters" so in the end the honesty and reason win.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is like an incredible journey through time and space to the distant and enigmatic land.
Violet wells
It's been a while since I read and loved this the first time and in the interim Mitchell has written two books which have caused me to think less of him as a novelist - The Bone Clocks and Slade House, both of which for me had a kind of juvenile silliness running through them. Therefore I was a bit worried of spoiling my wonderful memory of this book. Didn't happen though. I loved it from start to finish. Usually my awful memory is a cause of frustration. Only perhaps when rereading novels does ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Read 2016/ proofread 2022

I had this book on radar for a long time. I was sure it was going to be a success with me as I am a fan of historical fiction set in Japan, ever since I devoured Shogun as a child. I am particularly interested in the period depicted in this book and in the relationship between foreigners and Japanese people. Perfect book, then. Well...not really.

The first part of the book was promising. I enjoyed the story about the Japanese trading port of Dejima, the diversity of the
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Since discovering David Mitchell a little over a year ago, I have devoured all five of his novels to date. Yet I still cannot say what it is that keeps me impatiently coming back for more.

He is a master of voices. He breathes life into characters quickly and effortlessly. He is not afraid to dive into the unknowable mysteries embedded within us. Time, life, dreams, death. Without the crutches of belief or disbelief, he dances around questions of the soul. His villains are ofttimes as compelling
Richard Derus
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Rating: two headachey stars out of five

The Publisher Says: In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.

Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under
Paul Bryant
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels


Voiceover : Lord Sugar is looking for a historical novelist to invest in. He scoured the country for the very best. Twelve were selected to begin the process. After six weeks of hard battling, only three are left.* It's the Apprentice Week Six!

(We see a montage of the three remaining contestants, David Mitchell, Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters frantically typing away on laptops).

This week's task : to write a complete historical novel in only seven days. All th
A transient, dubious point of intersection with a secluded, floating world. Two disparate spheres of influence navigating a treacherous turn of the century wherein the actions of either will determine the course of future events. A clash of civilizations where all involved parties are unwilling to cede even something as basic as acknowledgement to the other. Races laboring under the virulent delusion that skin color predetermines superiority or inferiority. Love in the time of prejudice and mutu ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2010
David Mitchell and I had not been introduced before. I knew he had written something about clouds and dreams and this looked pretty so I took it home with me.

It is a book about Jacob de Zoet, who in 1799 arrives as a clerk on Dejima, an artificial island near Nagasaki and the only point of contact between Japan and the outside world. It is also a book about an English ship and a mountain shrine and secret religious cult. It is a book about Orito, Japanese midwife whose face is half burnt but the
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far my experiences with this author:
* Cloud Atlas 3 stars. I found it well written, interesting but ultimately confusing.
* The Bone Clocks 4 stars. I enjoyed this one very much.
* Slade House 5 stars. I loved this one totally!

Now what do I say about The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet?
Firstly can any one tell me what the title is supposed to mean?

Quick summary of my feelings about the book - beautifully written, perfect descriptions of the settings, interesting characters, a good story somew
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Exit Only Through the Sea Gate

"The Thousand Autumns" is set in Nagasaki over a period of almost 20 years beginning in 1799.

Dutch traders are restricted to an island in the harbour called "Dejima".

From the Japanese perspective, its name reflects the fact that it is an "exit island". Dutch ships arrive at and depart from the sea gate, while the Japanese officials and traders access the island through a land gate.

The Dutch are not permitted to enter Japan proper under the isolationist Sakoku pol
On Mitchell's Writing

Mitchell is one of my favourite writers, and I really have to squee about how masterfully he uses words. Here’s an example of his writing in this novel. Mitchell is setting a scene where Jacob is waiting in the antechamber to his new boss’s office. Along the walls of the antechamber are displayed specimens of exotic animals preserved in formaldehyde. As he looks at the specimens, Jacob recalls the events that led him to this place. Now Mitchell could have written it rather c
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Last month I was visiting the MFA in Boston. After an hour or two of wandering through rooms sporting giant, bombastic 19th century American paintings, I came upon a dim hall with small, colorful prints hanging from the wall, like this one:

Sugatami Bridge, Omokage Bridge, by Utagawa Hiroshige

This was my first taste of Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and I was immediately transfixed.

Although the Edo referred to in the Hiroshige prints is a place (a city later to be renamed Tokyo), Edo also refers to the period of Jap
Peter Boyle
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I almost gave up on this one. If I hadn't read and loved all of David Mitchell's other novels, I think I'd have abandoned ship after the first hundred pages. But I'm glad I stuck with it, even if I do have some reservations about its sprawling story.

The year is 1799. Jacob de Zoet, an eager and resourceful young clerk, arrives in Dejima, a tiny trading outpost in the bay of Nagasaki. Back in the Netherlands he became engaged to the beautiful Anna, and intends to earn his fortune with the Dutch E
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, brits
Is there anything David Mitchell can't do? Dazzling is the word for this. Fizzing with life, it appears at first to be a conventional historical novel, but then swoops into speculative fiction that is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, with human babies being 'farmed' for nefarious reasons, then back to the historical world and a wonderfully exciting naval stand-off, where Our Hero is saved by his red hair. (You'll have to read it to find out). James Wood, a critic who I admire gr ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Right in the testicles. That's where this book kicked my suspension of disbelief, landing a crunching, foetal-position-inducing blow that was all the more painful for being unexpected.

I'm a big fan of David Mitchell's work. I love Cloud Atlas and I've given it as a birthday gift to several friends. Ditto for Ghostwritten, a book I greatly respect for it's blend of narratives and voices, and genres. I enjoyed Numberninedream, and thought Black Swan Green was, well, OK. I dig Mitchell's ability to
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book immensely, probably a 4.5 of 5. It's so close to a 5 and someday I may return and decide it is.

The story grabbed me from the start and I believe that has to have some connection to Mitchell's skills as a writer and story teller as well as the story itself as tales of the sea and exploration are usually of no interest to me. His picture of the cultures of the time, both Japanese and the transplanted Europeans, captured my interest from the first pages and always had a f
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was happy to see Mitchell try his hand at historical fiction. While he’s always been considered an immensely skilled writer and a superb storyteller, it's his inventive structuring that seems to bring forth the highest praise. Read Cloud Atlas to see if you agree. With this most recent work, as he said in a post-publication interview, he was trying a more straightforward narrative form – one without gewgaws (I think that was the word he used, or maybe it was “jiggery-pokery”). I’m pleased to r ...more
Nandakishore Mridula
The story of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a divide during a turbulent historical period is the staple of many an historical novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, at first glane, is just that: however, the author has entered uncharted waters by venturing into an area which is seldom explored in historical novels, by choosing Japan during her international isolation as the venue and making the clerk of the erstwhile Dutch East India company, the unlikely hero.

Jacob de Zoet has joine
I found after finishing this terrific fiction I was looking to read about the events that this book was based on. I came away impressed that David Mitchell could turn an historical event as was a small trading depot on a man made island called Dejima in the middle of Nagasaki harbour in the late 1700’s into such an epic but subtle fiction. No Hollywood ending! Fantastic.

David Mitchell is a great story teller and a great writer. I have read his oeuvre in order and have yet to not be anything but
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mitchell chose a perfect location for his novel. Dejima, a place largely forgotten by the world, is an apt distillation of the insularity and xenophobia of the “Cloistered Empire”, fearful of external influence and resistant to change (This attitude would later see an abrupt reversal, leading eventually to Japan’s imperial aspirations in the 20th Century, culminating in the atomic explosion over almost this exact location. I’m sure this is not a coincidence - the seeds of necessity which precipi ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books - this was my third or fourth reading of Mitchell's wonderful work that is historical fiction, but also entirely transcendent of the genre.

Set in Nagasaki, Japan on the artificial island of Dejima, the plot revolves around the titular Jacob de Zoet, a clerk with the Dutch East India Company, and Orito, the slightly scarred midwife whose beauty and intelligence captivate Jacob (and other characters besides). But the secondary and peripheral characters are all deeply and c
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Despite my great love for Cloud Atlas (also by Mitchell), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet did not quite do it for me. I might even go so far as to say that, at times, it felt like The Thousand Visits to the DMV, if the DMV were staffed by highly literate history professors who accompanied every eye-exam and form signing with an exhaustive digression into various arcane automemorabilia that may or may not be quite interesting, excepting the fact that it's the DMV, a successful attendance of ...more
There is an art to consuming a cup of coffee, particularly if it is the first of the day, when your sleep-fuzzed brain and sluggish muscles yearn for the rush of caffeine. Drink it too quickly, you will burn your tongue and throat and negate the pleasure of its rich warmth curling thickly through your blood. Drink it too slowly and it will cool to a flaccid, bitter memory of what coffee could be.

Reading David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is like consuming that first, vital c
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Giving this book three stars doesn't adequately represent its melange of 1-star and 5-star elements. The prose here walks a line between vivid and so purple that it's gushing persimmon juice over your lips... no, that's not quite a direct quote. The romance between two of the characters hangs on just a few meetings, one of which is an awful scene where they teach each other the words for "dew" in their respective languages. The entire middle section of the book rests on a fantastical plot elemen ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction book. I give it 4.5 stars(rounded up to 5). It is an story of adventure, travel and romance and historically authentic.
I borrowed a kindle version from my local library.
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
David Mitchell's forte is the creation of fully formed worlds with numerous living, breathing characters, all written in beautiful, engaging prose.

I didn't think the subject matter of this novel would interest me at all (a trading post? a naval battle? not for me) but I was happy to live in this world with these characters while I was reading it. The plot is intricate but not cumbersome; details have meaning.

As in Cloud Atlas, there are recurring phrases and images that echo poetically througho
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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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Historical fiction isn't easy; it's not just another genre. How are they going to speak? If you get that too right, it sounds like a pastiche...
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“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” 233 likes
“Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike topped walls and treble-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule-drivers, mules and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunch-backed makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed form kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries' vats; over kites unthreading corpses of cats; over scholars glimpsing truth in fragile patterns; over bath-house adulterers, heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters' sons sharpening axes; candle-makers, rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etiolated lacquerers; mottle-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; tasters; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and ageing rakes by other men's wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchased judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotted-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night-soil; gate-keepers; bee-keepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet-nurses; perjurers; cut-purses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night's rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.” 125 likes
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