Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A NovelTitle: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Author: David Mitchell
Enjoyment Rating: 8/10
Source: Audible for iPhone
Referral: I can't remember. I think I picked it off some sale at the Audible website.
Books I've read this year: 110

I heard a lot of buzz around The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet last year, and at some point over the last twelve months I bought it from Audible. Then it sat, and sat, and sat in my iTunes. It's a long book-- I'm not sure of the page count, but it was about 24 hours of listening long, so whenever I had to choose between listening to this and listening to something shorter, I always picked the something shorter.

Then one morning I was out in the canyon on a run. The podcast I was listening to had a glitch, and this was the only book I had on the iPod. So I heaved a big sigh and started listening. I was hooked. The first chapter of the book is extremely engrossing-- a midwife, Orito Aibagawa goes to the home of a geisha in Nagasaki in the summer of 1799 in order to deliver a stillborn baby, and the chapter gives a lot of insight into both the thoughts of the midwife and the culture of the place. The story then switches to Jacob de Zoet, a redheaded clerk who has just arrived in the docklands off Nagasaki to work with a Dutch trading company. What evolves is a beautifully written, epic romance. de Zoet loves Aibagawa, she's not sure how she feels about him when she's captured and sent to an evil monastery (too complicated to explain here). Although they spend little time in each other's presence, they are always important in each other's lives.

Mitchell writes in at least a dozen voices here, and the Audible narrators (one male, one female) do an absolutely amazing job adapting to the voices-- educated Dutch, Japanese of many different social classes, English, French, Irish, and many more. It was an unconventional romance, and once that some readers might not find rewarding, but ultimately all of the hours I spent listening were well worth it.

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