Andy's Reviews > The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
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Jul 23, 2011

it was amazing

This just reaffirms my love for David Mitchell. This novel was not what I expected, although I wasn't sure what to expect to begin with, within the milieu of an East India Trading Co. clerk on a tiny island on the shore of Nagasaki, in 1799. Even outside of his time living in Japan, this had to be extensively researched, and Mitchell continues his habit of including Easter eggs for those who have read his other novels with the appearance of a younger version of one of the characters from a chapter in Cloud Atlas.

I enjoy those little things about his writing, but mostly I admire how Mitchell was able to take a foreign era and setting, put a very normal (almost boring) character in it, and somehow come up with an incredibly fascinating and moving human story that makes me better appreciate the fact that, while we as human beings are very limited in our awareness of the world, and universe, around us and tend to be rather insular and somewhat self-centered, or family-centered, or nation-centered, ultimately our lives follow thousands of years of other individual human beings who lived their lives, worked, fought, loved, hated, and died. Most of them are not remembered now, and most of them led normal lives that were beautiful or tragic or both in their own way, but they were all real, and most of us won't be remembered any better than them either, no matter how real our lives are to ourselves. It's almost as if we're standing on this pile of history that is both mercurially shifting, and foundationally (I just made that up) solid, and it's a beautiful thing to be aware of. These are the things I think of when I reflect on The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
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