The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, by David Mitchell

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Oct 1, 2010

thousand-autumns.jpgA sweeping historical novel that captures the readers' imagination and brings them to an intimate relationship with the characters is rare indeed, but this novel achieves just that level of mastery.  David Mitchell combines his meticulous research with his brilliant writing style to tell the story of Jacob De Zoet as he tries to earn a fortune to win his fiancee's hand in Holland.  1799 is the year that De Zoet has signed on with the Dutch East Indies Company as a clerk for the company on the man-made island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Harbor, the single port into Japan,  meant to keep the West at bay. The devout and resourceful clerk learns the language, deals with translators, thieves, con men, samurai, honor, and his own failings as human being, while providing the reader a window into the culture of Japan, which encompasses the basest of human activity to the most sublime, if not divine, endeavors.  This is a compelling read, and the history is vivid--the characters are so nuanced and interesting it is hard to end the book!!  This is an exciting way to learn a tiny part of the history of Japan.

Written by Susan B.