David Mitchell
David Mitchell is the acclaimed author of the novels Black Swan Green, which was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Time; Cloud Atlas, which was a Man Booker Prize finalist; Number9Dream, which was short-listed for the Man Booker as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and Ghostwritten, awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for best book by a writer under thirty-five and short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. He lives in Ireland.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
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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 fiancée 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.

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Praise:

"Very few people can write novels as ambitious and crowd-pleasing as David Mitchell’s. In what might be his boldest book yet, the author of Cloud Atlas delivers a historical epic about a Dutch accountant’s adventures in feudal Japan."
— Details magazine

"The most consistently interesting novelist of his generation goes back to 1790s Japan, when the Dutch East India Company was Tokyo’s only contact point with the Western world."
— Time magazine

"Those looking for the summer’s big historical novel, look no further: The two-time Booker Award finalist has delivered the tale of a young clerk with the Dutch East Indies Company who, in 1799, is posted to a man-made island in Nagasaki Harbor. Political intrigue and cross-cultural romance ensue."
— Newsday

"When a Dutch trader falls in love with a Japanese midwife who is also the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor in 19th-century Japan, you can be sure that the emotional and cultural clashes will be significant. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a historical romance novel by David Mitchell, gifted author of Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green. Here, Mitchell melds history and literature into a satisfying blend."
— Christian Science Monitor

Mitchell’s rightly been hailed as a virtuoso genius for his genre-bending, fiercely intelligent novels …The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a dense and satisfying historical with literary brawn and stylistic panache. “
Publishers Weekly, starred review & Pick of the Week 

"It is a rare novel that’s so captivating that the reader feels transported through time and fully immersed in an unfamiliar culture and place, and this is such a novel. . . .This painstakingly researched and original novel is hard to pin to any one genre, for it is a historical novel and cultural study with plenty of intrigue and mystery mixed in. It is intelligent and utterly readable at the same time."
Library Journal, Starred Review

“It’s as difficult to put this novel down as it is to overestimate Mitchell’s virtually unparalleled mastery of dramatic construction, illuminating characterizations and insight into historical conflict and change. Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Despite the audacious scope, the focus remains intimate; each fascinating character has the opportunity to share his or her story. Everything is patched together seamlessly and interwoven with clever wordplay and enlightening historical details on feudal Japan. First-rate literary fiction and a rousing good yarn, too.”
Booklist, starred review

“Spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful…a narrative of panoramic span…With this book, he masterfully extends his reach and deepens his concerns…Prodigiously researched, it resurrects place and period with riveting immediacy. Imagining, with corresponding fullness, not just its characters’ present predicaments but their pasts and futures, it brims with rich, involving and affecting humanity.”
Sunday Times

“The books of David Mitchell represent something akin to a Holy Grail for the publishing industry: not only is he a literary novelist who enjoys commercial success, he is an experimental writer whose works appeal equally to prize judges (he has been shortlisted for the Booker ) and the Richard & Judy selectors. His new novel, may not have the nostalgic charm of Black Swan Green, the matryoshka structure of Cloud Atlas or the alternate realities and fantasies in number9dream, but it has a sophistication and depth that leads me to suspect we’ve only glimpsed the author’s potential so far. The novel makes clear that what was exhilarating about Mitchell’s earlier work wasn’t the playful architectures or the dalliances with sci-fi; it was the exhilaration of the language itself…The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is far more subtle than just a tale of culture clashes, forbidden love and unexpected bravery.  For a tour de force, it’s surprisingly nimble, emotionally complex and simply unforgettable.”
Scotland on Sunday

“A master-piece…It’s this kind of free-flowing descriptiveness, this sheer revelry in language, this fascination with what it can and can’t explain, that underpins an already fascinating story. So credible has Mitchell made this mélange of love story, quest, myth, melodrama and historical fiction that you’ll probably finish it, as I did, and straight away check out what bits were true to the historical record, which facts were bent and which dates massaged. Then you’ll realise that none of this matters, because masterpieces make their own rules, and this book is definitely one of them.”
Scotsman

“Every sentence yields glorious surprises that no one else could think up.  In a novel where the challenge of communication is paramount, dialogue dominates, shifting masterfully between bawdy dialects, halting translations and secret inner thoughts…These few hundred words can only hint at the complexity and eloquence of this novel.  It will doubtless earn Mitchell his fourth Booker nomination and, if there us any justice, his first win.”
Sunday Telegraph

“There is no retreat, here, into the conventions of historical fiction.  All Mitchell’s architectural wizardry and verbal intensity are at play – but now subordinated solely into the service of his subject matter…I doubt there is another living English writer who is capable of such traversals of worlds and consciousness…Here, in this recreation of a historical moment, his transmigrations of empathy become fully emotionally satisfying…a marvel – entirely original among contemporary British novels, revealing its author as, surely, the most impressive fictional mind of his generation.”
Observer

“The book leaves a reader, as Ghostwritten did, in a space beyond "belief or disbelief", citizen of several worlds but tyrant or serf in none, only convinced, as its voice of truth says, that it is "Better to strive to co-exist, than seek to disprove"…However densely charted and richly sketched, this sumptuous imbroglio never drags. Its author often risks high-level pastiche but writes with such invigorating edge and dash that scarcely a sentence stands idle…More than before, those muscles do the heart’s work.”
Independent

“Extraordinarily entertaining and well-realised… His writing just gives intense pleasure."
– AS Byatt in The Guardian

"How on earth does [Mitchell] do it? He can write as thrillingly about large-scale events as he can about the tiny details of the private world. Such fluent and masterful command of both domains seems the stuff of a true artist’s gifts, not the laborious work of craft and toil. Not the least astonishing facet of Mitchell’s art is the supple effortlessness he brings to creating worlds entire: worlds so credible and fully formed that one is compelled to allow to pass through one’s mind the absurd thought he was, perhaps, an inhabitant of Japan in 1799. What Adam Thirlwell has provocatively said about Tolstoy as a miniaturist applies equally to Mitchell…This novel is a thriller with a glittering seam of a love story running through it (or is it the other way round?). . . it is a sumptuous historical novel on the collision of cultures . . . The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  is vertiginously ambitious – and brilliant.”
The Times (London)

“This is probably Mitchell’s most accessible book. It runs to almost 500 pages, yet almost every sentence shimmers with precise, opaque and brilliantly realised writing. . . An historical saga on a deliberately grand scale, it never loses its quiet intimacy and is a brilliantly realised account of two worlds.”
The Irish Times

“Mitchell has built a reputation as just about the most audacious, thrilling and, above all, entertaining young British novelist there is. He’s that genuine rarity, a writer of startling ambition whose work is challenging and unconventional, yet whose storytelling gifts keep you turning the page…. [The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet] may just be Mitchell’s most ambitious book yet. . . . [he is] the magician of modern fiction.”
The Guardian

 



Comments

5 Comments
  1. Melissa M. (Reader) posted on February 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm:
    I was lucky enough to read David Mitchell's new book in manuscript form, and I just can't stop thinking about it. Like his previous books, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is written so beautifully, that I didn't want to miss one word. I am sure Mitchell's current fans will be pleased and new fans will emerge after reading his latest novel.
  2. Seth M. (Bookseller) posted on February 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm:
    (I was extremely lucky - by pestering my RH sales rep - to have been able to read the manuscript of "Thousand Autumns" several month in advance of the release.) While "Autumns" does not have the complex, head-exploding machinations of some of Mitchell's past work (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas esp.) it does prove that Mitchell has been no fluke - his burgeoning talent has hit full stride at this point and "Autumns" showcases his immense ability to write in any genre he chooses and blow your socks off in the process. There are multiple narrators throughout, as is Mitchell's wont, but it is structurally done in such a subtle way that you hardly notice - you are just swept along in the flow, wondering, as a foreigner like Jacob, how much of the lush, inner world of Japan you will be allowed to glimpse. My god, if this book isn't the one that earns him that elusive Booker prize...
  3. Simone R. (Leader of a Book Club) posted on April 7, 2010 at 9:57 am:
    This was the first book of David Mitchell's I have read-- and it won't be my last. Wow. His writing style and this enchanting tale blew me away. I can't wait to re-read with my book club this summer. Highly recommended!
  4. Jill L. (Leader of a Book Club) posted on April 22, 2010 at 7:10 am:
    I was lucky enough to read this in an ARC: LOVE this book and Mitchell's skill. His facility and variety of language amazed me and made me smile with pleasure. It's an epic adventure of so many parts, yet so whole. I'm sure it will be one of my favorites of the year; days after finishing, I’m still thinking about it and want to tell everyone you HAVE to read this so we can share our thoughts. Filled with twists and shifts, adventure and subtle interactions—you won’t know where you’re going but you’ll be glad you went. The historical research and Mitchell’s ability to give a sense of the immediate surroundings are amazing. I found myself asking...how did he know that? How did he find that out? Because it feels more than imagined and I’ve read a lot of historical fiction set in Japan. This setting is a Western enclave on a little island shut off from and by Japan in 1799-1800s. The characters are a mix of Dutch traders, a few from other parts of the Western world, and many of the Japanese with whom they interact. Mitchell seeds the book with rich vignettes and folktales that are almost like campfire stories; they give marvelous flavor to the times and what people were capable of believing. DO NOT read plot-giving reviews if you're going to read the book because there are a few shockers along the way that are much better not anticipated. Really! I suspect reaction is going to be mixed because it is quite long and detail-rich but it's also linear, which helps a lot. Mitchell is really in control of his skills and manages to convey a sense of immediacy/reality by letting the background 'noise' interrupt a paragraph in a way that feels very realistic. But he doesn't overuse the device so it's not intrusive yet it gives the pacing of allowing concurrent happenings and thoughts. After finishing: I can only hope lots of folks read this so we can all huddle together and talk about it. I was truly sad to have it end and will miss the sound of this book as well as a few of the people in it. Here's hoping to a shorter wait for Mitchell's next epic.
  5. kay b. (Reader) posted on April 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm:
    Oh you lucky people, having not had to wait. I sit here in Australia waiting, denied the chance to win a copy due to the tyranny of distance. No publicity here, no advance press, it's all too disappointing! I hope I haven't overstepped the boundary by posting when I haven't read the book; I just wanted you northerners who have to know how jealous I am.
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CONTACT: For U.S. media inquiries about David Mitchell's books, please contact Jynne Martin at Random House.