Monday, July 25, 2011
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
Not as good as Cloud Atlas, but good. It took me a little while to warm up to the story, mainly because you don't get a solid sense of where it is going until the end of the first book, but after that I was hooked. I think the James Wood review in the New Yorker complained that there doesn't seem to be a real "reason" for this book, other than just to write a masterpiece of historical fiction. That seems like an okay enough reason to me, but I can see the point Wood was making: why write a work of historical fiction if not to prove some point about what we can learn from some era or way of thinking that persisted in the past? Mitchell does pay a little homage to the idea that slavery is wrong, which is pretty much what all historical fiction is about, since that is the only thing we have ever learned from the past—but he doesn't get bogged down in it and manages to turn out a pretty compelling story. Good work!