The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

A Novel

Book - 2011
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Jacob de Zoet travels from Holland to Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor where he will have five years to earn a sufficient fortune to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée. When he meets the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor, Jacob's intentions become different.
Publisher: New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011
Edition: Random House trade pbk. ed
ISBN: 9780812976366
Characteristics: 492 p. : ill. ; 21 cm

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SCL_Justin Jul 24, 2017

David Mitchell’s novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is about the Dutch in Nagasaki at the end of the 18th century. Jacob is a clerk who’s there to make his fortune so he can go back home to marry. Things don’t work out as he’d hoped and he has to become much better at politics than he was on arrival.

Mitchell splits up the narrative between a few different viewpoint characters in the book, which gives us not just the colonial perspective on what’s going on. The most troublesome part of the book for me was the nefarious practices going on in the mountain abbey. While the rest of the book felt like a more-restrained part of The Baroque Cycle, the abbey rumours were exceedingly pulpy and over the top. It made for a weird tone, since I wasn’t sure if the overly lurid doings were supposed to be taken seriously or if they were being overdone as a statement about exoticization/orientalism or if they were just weird.

In the end it was a satisfying story, but not as impressive as something like number9dream or Cloud Atlas.

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AlteredStaite
Apr 19, 2017

I tried to read this but couldn't finish it. Not even character driven. Just boring.

h
haileyj
Nov 02, 2015

When I started reading the book I thought "this is going to be a good read" but as I slogged through page after page I realized the story was just turning into a yarn, although some of the descriptive language was beautiful. The bit about the "mad monks" was bizarre and I don't think it added to the story. The historical setting did provide an insight into the brutal and corrupt practices of the Dutch East Indies Trading Company in the 1800's and it is not a flattering picture.

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lukasevansherman
Oct 13, 2015

"History is not, after all, what really happened, but only what we believe happened."-David Mitchell
There is no disputing English author David Mitchell's technical ability. His best-know novel, "Cloud Atlas," was a virtuoso performance, yet it failed to cohere as a narrative and its ambition was more often exhausting than inspiring. "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," from 2010, is more conventionally structured than "Cloud Atlas" and a more satisfying read, yet it suffers from some of the same issues. Set in a Japanese harbor town in the late 1700s, Mitchell's novel evokes, in detail, the clash between societies and cultures, while channeling a wide range of voices, from the Dutch clerk of the title to an Irish criminal to a Japanese midwife. Again, it's impressive, but not particularly insightful or engaging, and I find it hard to view as a masterpiece or as "fiction's future." "I didn't set out to write a historical novel just for the heck of it--you'd have to be mad."-D.M.

DevilStateDan Aug 30, 2015

This is a great read & written with beautiful language & pace.
The plot is very interesting & deals with how humans cope (or not) with periods of transition & change.
The clash of cultures is treated intelligently & the characters are beautifully flawed & realistically portrayed.
After two very positive experiences with David Mitchell's writing, I'll be working my way through all of his other books with eagerness!
#2015ReadingChallenge
#ABookWithALoveTriangle

mvkramer Aug 19, 2015

Mitchell creates characters so real and compelling that I loved my time with them, even if it was just one chapter, and had to find out what happened to them in the end. A strange, genre-bending book, but great for fans of historical fiction.

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finn75
Apr 07, 2015

A slow start but it turns into an excellent insight into a time when Empire was everything and all other cultures frowned upon. It also shows what happens to people on the other side of the world without any real guidance but themselves. How this effects individuals personally is what makes up the book. Each has their story.

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Persnickety77
Nov 24, 2014

wow. this book is pretty marvelous. i picked it up because i loved Mitchell's Cloud Atlas so much, but i was skeptical because i have no interest in the Dutch East Indies Trading Company or samurai-era Japan or the beginning of the 19th century. but it is a very absorbing book. well written, informative, interesting, and bittersweet. pretty much everything you'd want in a book!

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twa001
Oct 13, 2014

A wonderful book...one of the best works of fiction that I have ever read.

theorbys Jun 13, 2014

Entertaining enough and well written and well crafted, but hardly great writing. Interesting mainly for its period setting.

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5redpandas Oct 11, 2012

5redpandas thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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spacecat
Aug 05, 2012

spacecat thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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spacecat
Aug 05, 2012

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Detailed descriptions of crude surgeries, midwifery, childbirth, poisonings, ritual suicide and infanticide.

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