Monday, August 4, 2014

Mitchell, David (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet)

Mr. Mitchell is a very smart man. I feel very, very not-smart next to him. Having read two of his books now, I believe he writes fiction for the pun. Every opportunity he has to exploit the potential for a pun is taken. In fact, I would bet (but I'm not smart enough to determine) that he writes certain scenes to encapsulate puns. ("Let's see, there were 10 in that chapter, that's probably enough, next chapter!")

Not that I don't enjoy it. It's mounds better reading a story that the author is enjoying the hell out of telling versus one that is labored, overly trite, obtuse or any of a number of other plagues that befall authors.

This particular story is not as layered as Cloud Atlas, but it does have layers, so beware in advance. We are supposed to love our protagonist immediately because of his Christian, moral, upstanding ways - which of course are surprisingly similar to the thoughts and feelings of the denizens of his host country. The Japanese in the latter half of the 1700s, and their efforts to encourage and absolutely not encourage trade with the Dutch, sounds like a minute section of history. It is not. It is entrancing and mysterious and disgusting and bizarre and lovely and holy. Mitchell may have taken 500 pages to tell all that, but I dare anyone else to try.

And by no means miss the Reader's Guide at the end of the book. There are several pages devoted to the origins of historical fiction, how it can be difficult to write it, and why we all still love a good historical novel. You'll laugh out loud, believe me or not.

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