In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. Read more...
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In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply "a genius." Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian's claim that "each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it." The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable.
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 devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancee back in Holland.
But Jacob's original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city's powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob's worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, "Who ain't a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?"
A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.
Praise for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
"A page-turner . . . David] Mitchell's masterpiece; and also, I am convinced, a masterpiece of our time."--Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
"An achingly romantic story of forbidden love . . . Mitchell's incredible prose is on stunning display. . . . A novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between that] confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive."--Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
"The novelist who's been showing us the future of fiction has published a classic, old-fashioned tale . . . an epic of sacrificial love, clashing civilizations and enemies who won't rest until whole family lines have been snuffed out."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"By any standards, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a formidable marvel."--James Wood, The New Yorker
"A beautiful novel, full of life and authenticity, atmosphere and characters that breathe."--Maureen Corrigan, NPR
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This months' paperback releases
This month’s best paperback releases for reading groups feature notable authors and bestsellers.
MITCHELL’S JAPANESE EPIC
In his fifth novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell focuses his prodigious narrative powers on Japan in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A small Dutch trading settlement on an island in Nagasaki Harbor is where readers first meet Jacob, a representative of the Dutch East Indies Company. Jacob hopes to make his fortune and impress his fiancée back home, but instead he falls in love with Orito Aibagawa, a Japanese midwife. Theirs is a tenuous relationship, as Jacob isn’t allowed to visit the mainland where Orito lives. The pair encounter greater obstacles when Jacob is treated unjustly at work, and Orito’s conniving stepmother sends her away to a sinister nunnery. Their stories provide the foundation for Mitchell’s most ambitious work to date. He populates his tale with a cast of memorable characters that includes Uzaemon, an old flame of Orito’s, and various seamen, slaves and government officials. Author of the critically acclaimed Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green, Mitchell, as always, pushes boundaries to create an epic and richly rewarding reading experience.
IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH
Taking a swing at America’s health-care system, Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, So Much for That, is a humorous and insightful examination of the patient-caregiver relationship. After selling his business for a million dollars, Shep Knacker plans to retire and travel the world with his wife, Glynis. But when she’s diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer, Shep finds himself serving as live-in nurse. Glynis makes for a terrible patient, but Shep endures her demands with the support of his best friend, Jackson, whose teenage daughter is also terminally ill. The two patients strike up an odd friendship as the men in their lives struggle to maintain some sort of status quo. Shep’s retirement fund dwindles quickly as he pays for chemotherapy and hospital stays, and Jackson is basically broke. Shriver depicts their plight in lively prose that’s meticulously crafted. She writes with delicacy and a unique understanding of the ways in which illness can transform lives and relationships. This is a funny, angry, compassionate novel that’s sure to resonate with readers.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
In this vivid mix of science and biography, Rebecca Skloot tells the incredible true story of Henrietta Lacks, a victim of cervical cancer whose cells made possible some of medicine’s biggest discoveries. Lacks, a mother of five, came from a poor African-American family. When she died in 1951, doctors took samples of her tissues without having secured her consent. Her cells endured in the lab, allowing researchers to formulate a vaccine for polio and treatments for AIDS. Henrietta’s husband and children had no knowledge of her invaluable contribution until many years later. Skloot becomes involved with various surviving family members, who had passed the intervening years in poverty and bad health, helping them discover the truth about Henrietta. This poignant story about the invasiveness of medicine is also a deeply intimate look at one family’s efforts to claim its legacy.