B0nnie's Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
7355135
's review
May 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favourite-books


This book proves David Mitchell can be any writer he chooses. The six novellas that comprise Cloud Atlas are forgeries - and they are original. Each adopts the voice of a distinct author. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but all of the parts are superb. It is a sextet, like the one found within the novel, with piano, clarinet, cello, flute, oboe, and violin - every individual instrument pleasing, but when played altogether becomes something different and brilliant - the Cloud Atlas Sextet.

Each novella is broken, torn in two, or interrupted, and later continued after the sixth, which is the only one completed in one section. Then the previous five stories are concluded in descending order.


1. THE PACIFIC JOURNAL OF ADAM EWING
Written as a journal. The first story is a delightful combination of Melville, Defoe, and James Fenimore Cooper. It has the serious tone and charm of 18th and 19th century literature, but goes a bit too far, just short of mockery. It is not parody, nor disrespectful. Somehow it has a layer of - what? invisible mirth?

The acknowledgments notes Michael King’s definitive work on the Moriori, A Land Apart: The Chatham Islands Of New Zealand which provided Mitchell with a factual account of Chatham Islands history. This part of the story is interesting, and adds historical details essential to the plot in the way Moby Dick does with whaling information.

Moriori, 1877, survivors of the 1835 Maori invasion

2. LETTERS FROM ZEDELGHEM
Letters, one way. Robert Frobisher, writes amusing accounts of his escapades in Belgium to his lover Rufus Sixsmith while he works for a famous composer as an amanuensis. I pictured Frobisher to be like a young Hugh Laurie. There is something of Waugh, or Nancy Mitford in style and humour. He finds the Adam Ewing journal.

The acknowledgments notes "certain scenes in Robert Frobisher’s letters owe debts of inspiration to Delius as I Knew Him by Eric Fenby....The character Vyvyan Ayrs quotes Nietzsche more freely than he admits." And like Nietzsche, Ayrs has tertiary syphilis, "The syphilitic decays in increments, like fruit rotting in orchard verges".

"Eric William Fenby, OBE (22 April 1906 – 18 February 1997) was an English composer and teacher who is best known for being Frederick Delius's amanuensis from 1928 to 1934. He helped Delius realise a number of works that would not otherwise have been forthcoming...In 1928, hearing that Delius had become virtually helpless because of blindness and paralysis due to syphilis, he offered to serve him as an amanuensis." - Wikipedia

"Delius, Delius amat, Syphilus, Deus, Genius, ooh". - Kate Bush
fenby
The amanuensis Eric William Fenby

3. HALF-LIVES, THE FIRST LUISA REY MYSTERY
It's terrible! in a good way. A classic thriller/mystery/crime novel. Cheesy style and plot: spunky girl reporter, whose father (Lester Rey, now dead) had been a cop fighting corruption. Several highly improbable escapes from certain death. All the clichés of this genre are here and brilliantly strung together. Rufus Sixsmith, the addressee in the previous episode, is a key character and his letters from Zedelghem are discovered after he is murdered. Does Sixsmith's prediction about the nuclear reactor come true?
rey.nerves
Lester del Rey

4. THE GHASTLY ORDEAL OF TIMOTHY CAVENDISH
The memoir of a sixty something publishing agent, trapped in an old folks home. Cavendish is like an acid-tongued old geezer Randle McMurphy, battling another Nurse Ratched - but as written by Martin Amis. He reads the manuscript for Half-Lives, intending to publish it, as well as his own memoir, "I shall find a hungry ghostwriter to turn these notes you’ve been reading into a film script of my own."

nurseratched
Nursey

5. AN ORISON OF SONMI~451
Written in Q & A form; sci-fi; a dystopian future, the economy dependent on slave clones. The clone Sonmi becomes the first stable, ascended fabricant, i.e., fully human. Some plot elements of Bladerunner.

Sonmi later watches the film ("disneys") The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, "one of the greatest movies ever made by any director, from any age." Ray "451" Bradbury, Orwell, Huxley and Plato's Republic are referred to. Somni is Winston Smith - and she is Jesus.

Sonmi
Doona Bae as Sonmi

6. SLOOSHA’S CROSSIN’ AN’ EV’RYTHIN’ AFTER
Futurist speculative fiction - civilization has fallen, the few remaining people live a basic existence. Sort of a Tolkienian fantasy but Mitchell's marvelous invented dialect is Burgessish. Zachry the goatherder - there and back again - is a Valleysman on Big I, Ha-Why. "Valleysmen only had one god an’ her name it was Sonmi".


Zachry sees a recording of Sonmi's Q & A interview, because there is a small group of advanced survivors, "Prescients," and one arrives on a great ship to live on the island, to learn the ways of these primitive people. They have a Prime Directive - but who ever follows those? They are nonbelievers,

We Prescients, she answered, after a beat, b’lief when you die you die an there ain’t no comin back.

But what ’bout your soul? I asked.

Prescients don’t b’lief souls exist.

But ain’t dyin’ terrorsome cold if there ain’t nothin’ after?

Yay—she sort o’ laughed but not smilin’, nay— our truth is terror-some cold.

Jus’ that once I sorried for her. Souls cross the skies o’ time, Abbess’d say, like clouds crossin’ skies o’ the world. Sonmi’s the east’n’west, Sonmi’s the map an’ the edges o’ the map an’ b’yonder the edges.

MaunaKeaObservatories
Mauna Kea Observatories on "Big I, Ha-Why".


The stories are connected by certain reoccurring themes and events. Truth. Time. Betrayal. Drugs. Poison. Power. Captivity. Masters and Slaves. Freedom. Cruelty. Worship. The Number Twelve, Seven. Worms, Snakes, Ants, Souls. Birthmarks. Escape. Letters. Books. Music. Films. Aging. Corporate Society. Religion. And there are many literary allusions: Moby Dick; The Bible; Don Juan; Time's Arrow; To the Lighthouse; The Gulag Archipelago; An Evil Cradling; Nineteen Eighty-four; Fahrenheit 451; All Quiet on the Western Front . Nietzsche, Kipling, Conrad, Zane Grey, Homer. Harry Harrison. And more.

One Novella is slyly presented within another. I found myself clinging to the first narrative as the "real" one. When it turns up as "a curious dismembered volume" in the second, damn! I swallowed hard and justified such an appearance as quite possible. Then it is merely mentioned in a manuscript - the third novella - which is being read in the fourth. Got that? making it entirely illogical to continue my belief. And worse: Frobisher says, "Something shifty about the journal’s authenticity—seems too structured for a genuine diary, and its language doesn’t ring quite true—but who would bother forging such a journal, and why?"

So I'm forced into using doublethink of the highest order. The fact is, you want each of these narratives to be the real one. They are that good. The structure weakens the reader's fantasy that this is "real". It becomes very awkward, like explaining a time travel paradox.

Still...never underestimate the power of doublethink. Autua, Adam Ewing, Robert Frobisher, Rufus Sixsmith, Timothy Cavendish, Sonmi, Zachry, Meronym, all remain with me...

*Sob*.
Nea So Copros, ship
650 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Cloud Atlas.
Sign In »

Quotes B0nnie Liked

David Mitchell
“Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the west an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“As many truths as men. Occasionally, I glimpse a truer Truth, hiding in imperfect simulacrums of itself, but as I approach, it bestirs itself & moves deeper into the thorny swamp of dissent.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“How vulgar, this hankering after immortality, how vain, how false. Composers are merely scribblers of cave paintings. One writes music because winter is eternal and because, if one didn't, the wolves and blizzards would be at one's throat all the sooner.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“The Ghost of Sir Felix Finch whines, "But it's been done a hundred times before!"--as if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void-Webber! As if Art is the What, not the How!”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Do ants get headaches?”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“If, by happiness, you mean the absence of adversity I and all fabricants are the happiest stratum in corpocracy as genomicists insist. However, if happiness means the conquest of adversity or a sense of purpose, or the xercise of one’s will to power, then of all Nea So Copros’s slaves we surely are the most miserable.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Mother used to say escape is never further than the nearest book. Well, Mumsy, no, not really. Your beloved large-print sagas of rags, riches, and heartbreak were no camouflage against the miseries trained on you by the tennis ball launcher of life, were they? But, yes, Mum, there again, you have a point. Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


Comments (showing 1-50 of 151) (151 new)


Megan Fantastic review! Glad to hear you enjoyed it this is probably one of my favorites books!


Jenn(ifer) What the? What? I'm totally confused, but still, great review!


Stephen M Amazing review Bonnie. I reconnected with what I loved so much about this book when I read it some two years ago. How do you feel about the movie? It's either going to be a disaster or one of the most epic movies ever made.


message 4: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Puma Another winning review--many thanks.


B0nnie Megan wrote: "Fantastic review! Glad to hear you enjoyed it this is probably one of my favorites books!"

Didn't you just love Somni?


B0nnie (Jenn)ifer wrote: "What the? What? I'm totally confused, but still, great review!"

Read it Jenn, it all becomes clear ;-0


B0nnie Stephen M wrote: "Amazing review Bonnie. I reconnected with what I loved so much about this book when I read it some two years ago. How do you feel about the movie? It's either going to be a disaster or one of the m..."

Thanks Stephen. I can hardly wait for the movie! I'm thinking epic...


B0nnie Mike wrote: "Another winning review--many thanks."

Mike, you'll love it...


message 9: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls The Sloosha section in this novel killed me. Otherwise I worship at its feet also. Really liked this review, it's a lovely Mitchellian homage.


B0nnie MJ wrote: "The Sloosha section in this novel killed me. Otherwise I worship at its feet also. Really liked this review, it's a lovely Mitchellian homage."

Give it another go, young man...it is amazing. Reading dialect is a pain but you get into it, you really do. I'm in love with this book.


Megan B0nnie wrote: "Megan wrote: "Fantastic review! Glad to hear you enjoyed it this is probably one of my favorites books!"

Didn't you just love Somni?"


Oh my goodness yes! That story was my favorite part of the whole book! The Papa Song's scene near the end was amazing... as was the rest of it haha


switterbug (Betsey) Damn, another book still on my tbr. I have never seen a review explained this way, so incredibly profound!


B0nnie switterbug (Betsey) wrote: "Damn, another book still on my tbr. I have never seen a review explained this way, so incredibly profound!"

Or you can see the movie in October...
cloud atlas film


B0nnie Megan wrote: "B0nnie wrote: "Megan wrote: "Fantastic review! Glad to hear you enjoyed it this is probably one of my favorites books!"

Didn't you just love Somni?"

Oh my goodness yes! That story was my favorite part of the whole book! The Papa Song's scene near the end was amazing... as was the rest of it haha... "


Papa Song’s is people!!! and Hae-Joo (!) yes, that was something. Oh, Frobisher's last letter :'-(


Steve This is one of the best reviews ever. I'm so glad the book has inspired yet another astute reader to get so much out of it. And if you can convince Jenn and Switterbug (astute readers in their own rights) to give it a try, too, you'll have given this book its highest honor.

Hope you continue to enjoy Mitchell books. He's one of the few authors that impel me to proselytize openly. His next one, set in Ireland, is due to be out fairly soon.


B0nnie Steve wrote: "This is one of the best reviews ever. I'm so glad the book has inspired yet another astute reader to get so much out of it. And if you can convince Jenn and Switterbug (astute readers in their ow..."

Thanks very much Steve. I do know about Jenn and Switterbug! they are astute readers, rights or no. I get that urge to proselytize too - I guess that's why I do these crazy reviews. Do you know anything else about the new book?


Stephen M Steve wrote: "His next one, set in Ireland, is due to be out fairly soon."

Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When?


Steve Stephen M wrote: "
Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When?"


Uh oh, I think my "fairly soon" might have gotten your hopes up, Stephen. I don't have an exact date, but I don't think it's, like, imminent. I'll try to look up more on it, though. Maybe I can find the article I saw on it for Bonnie's benefit, too.


Stephen M Well if I start making plans for the groupreads a year ahead of time that's okay too....


message 20: by knig (new) - added it

knig OK, just ordered it. Great review, how have I missed this one?


B0nnie Knig-o-lass wrote: "OK, just ordered it. Great review, how have I missed this one?"

um, because you've been drinking up Nietzsche like a good uberwench should? keep up the great work, lass!


Bettie☯ Superb review Bonnie - Mitchell can do no wrong in my eyes.


message 23: by Bettie☯ (last edited Jun 26, 2012 03:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bettie☯ The Irish novel article: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...


message 24: by s.p (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p This is great great great great, simply great!
'fact is, you want each of these narratives to be the real one', so true (especially Frobisher for me, my personal favorite story). The way Mitchell teases you that 'oh its all real, or is it?' is fun though. He did that in Ghostwritten too, where its like 'wait, did that not happen or are you throwing me off!?'. And now I'm more excited for the movie again. I think I'll reread it that week.


Steve Bettie wrote: "The Irish novel article: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent..."

Thanks, Betty. There does not appear to be much out there about his newest one. (I stupidly googled "David Mitchell newest" but he's had a whole history of newest ones ever since Ghostwritten. One of the more recent pieces on Mitchell had nothing to say about his upcoming book, but did have some interesting thoughts on the importance of story. Bonnie would probably appreciate this given her review's emphasis on the different storytelling styles. (And Switterbug, among others, will no doubt like the references to The Wire.)

http://www.3news.co.nz/David-Mitchell...


Stephen M How much longer do we have to wait?

In three days it'll be two years since TAoJdZ. Is that enough time to ask of an author? When can we start in with the vandalism and threats to get a release date within the year?


Steve I know what you mean, Stephen. I'm tempted to send Kathy Bates over there to tell him, "I'm your biggest fan," and that he really needs to get to it.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

A good review but I'm not going to say what I really thought of the book as that gets me into too much trouble on this site. I'll just say that I'm never going to forgive Mitchell for his oh-so-cutesy references to Larkin.


B0nnie Thanks very much Bettie & Mr. s.penkevich & Justin (which references to Larkin, Justin?)

I was reading someone's review of an advance screening on IMDb, many spoilers, if any one is interested: (view spoiler)


message 30: by s.p (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p Thanks for including that Bonnie. My only question is (view spoiler)


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

"which references to Larkin, Justin?"

Oh, God. I would have thrown the book but I listened to this on CD which is the only way I can finish these kind of books.

They're all in the Cavendish story. "I had a librarian friend in Hull I was going to see." ISN'T THAT CLEVER AND SLY AND OH SO EFFING CUTE????!!!!

Much of the Cavendish plot is related to Larkin in some way. The nursing home = "The Old Fools". He describes "High Windows" at some point. The train sequence might have been related to Whitsun Weddings. And the worst one of all: When Cavendish first encounters the male orderly at the home during his first attempt to leave, the orderly is described as removing the corpse of a hedgehog from his lawnmower.

FUCK YOU MITCHELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously


message 32: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I am so embarrassed.

I am a David Mitchell virgin. Yep, I'm shaming myself publicly, sacrificing my self esteem at the feet of your wonderfully awe inspiring epic review.

I can only hope that by shaming myself that I will fix this rather embarrassing affliction as quickly as possible.


Stephen M Awesome link Bonnie. That only bolsters my confidence in the movie. FIngers crossed! S.penk (view spoiler) We should group read Cloud Atlas before the movie comes out.


message 34: by s.p (last edited Jun 26, 2012 12:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p Justin wrote: ""which references to Larkin, Justin?"

Oh, God. I would have thrown the book but I listened to this on CD which is the only way I can finish these kind of books.

They're all in the Cavendish stor..."


In the second half of the book, Cavendish says that he quotes famous literature because most people are ignorant to the references and doing so makes him believe he sounds 'witty and charming' to others. He often 'steals' from Salinger too. The smuggery is part of a smug character.


message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 26, 2012 01:01PM) (new)

aww christ. what is going on here? Jeffrey, I was just looking at your profile before you posted here. What town in central Kansas did you grow up nearest? I think we're cut from the same russian-red-hard-winter wheat cloth. I grew up in Ottawa county but have family that farmed in Marion county.

You're all just a manifestation of my subconscious.


Stephen M I'm going to pretend the last line of message 31 doesn't exist. Entering electro shock therapy ZZZZZZZZ! ZZZZZZZZ! okay okay, memory wiped, phew.


B0nnie s.penkevich wrote: "Thanks for including that Bonnie. My only question is [spoilers removed]"

Like you said, Mitchell teases you and 'oh its all real, or is it?' (view spoiler)


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

s.penkevich wrote: "The smuggery is part of a smug character.

Penk, don't you think the reference smuggery is present throughout all the stories?


B0nnie "FUCK YOU MITCHELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously" and "I am a David Mitchell virgin" could get together and it's all good?


B0nnie Jeffrey wrote: "I am so embarrassed.

I am a David Mitchell virgin. Yep, I'm shaming myself publicly, sacrificing my self esteem at the feet of your wonderfully awe inspiring epic review.

I can only hope that b..."


How dare you. I expect you to have read every book in the universe! Tsk.


Stephen M Justin, you should check out S.penke's review of the book. It's very well written and addresses that question.


message 42: by s.p (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p Justin wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "The smuggery is part of a smug character.

Penk, don't you think the reference smuggery is present throughout all the stories?"


Perhaps, but the book was inspired by Calvion's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, so my impression was that a big point of the book was about referencing books. In a way, it was his exercising in style and form, so each was full of nods towards authors of each genre. I can see why people dislike this, but I felt it as more of an easter egg hunt than showing off per se. But then again, I like T.S. Eliot so I'm okay with allusions.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

B0nnie wrote: ""FUCK YOU MITCHELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously" and "I am a David Mitchell virgin" could get together and it's all good?"

KANSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!


message 44: by s.p (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.p B0nnie wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Thanks for including that Bonnie. My only question is [spoilers removed]"

Like you said, Mitchell teases you and 'oh its all real, or is it?' [spoilers removed]"


Great points. Alas, it is time to leave work and I cant type. But i'll be back for that


message 45: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Justin wrote: "B0nnie wrote: ""FUCK YOU MITCHELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously" and "I am a David Mitchell virgin" could get together and it's all good?"

KANSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..."

Oh MY!!!


B0nnie Justin wrote: ""which references to Larkin, Justin?"

Oh, God. I would have thrown the book but I listened to this on CD which is the only way I can finish these kind of books.

They're all in the Cavendish stor..."


Thanks Justin, your argument is backfiring on me...! I like it more now, lol. But if you don't like that sort of thing, then I understand your dislike. I have a low tolerance for certain literary tricks too.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

I've read Penkevich's review and thought it was good too. I understand the book. I understand what Mitchell was trying to do. I just really hate it. I'm going to stop commenting here so I don't make a bunch of people mad with my horrible tact.


message 48: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Justin wrote: "B0nnie wrote: ""FUCK YOU MITCHELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! seriously" and "I am a David Mitchell virgin" could get together and it's all good?"

KANSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..."



What are you doing on this site? I thought Kemper and I were the only yahoos from Kansas on goodreads. haha


B0nnie Jeffrey...your problem will soon be solved...


B0nnie s.penkevich wrote: "B0nnie wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Thanks for including that Bonnie. My only question is [spoilers removed]"

Like you said, Mitchell teases you and 'oh its all real, or is it?' [spoilers removed]..."


Because of the Nietzsche references, the birthmark idea might be real - a connection to the idea of "eternal recurrence".


« previous 1 3 4
back to top