The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

 Read as part of Mount TBR Reading Challenge

and The Chunkster Reading Challenge.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

I found this book in a charity shop one bleak early autumn day last year , bought on a whim because I had read two books of David Mitchell’s and quite liked them  – did I need another book? of course not, my TBR pile is higher than a house however –

What a treat this offering turned out to be.  I was drawn instantly into 18th century Japan.  Swept through the clash of cultures, through a fascinating picture of a Japan and a Dutch nation so different from todays.

Dutch traders perched precariously on the edge of Japan, their Nations  domination over the world’s trade routes already at an end. Japan, secretive, insular, ruled by rigid and prescribed rituals, manners and behaviour. Two cultures who despise, mistrust and misunderstand each other.

This is an ambitious and imaginative work.  Within the pages, are traders, spies, interpreters, servants, naval men, slaves and high ranking officials.  We follow them, through the main and many subplots in a wonderful weaving of suspense, intrigue, betrayal, conflict, love and loss. A richly drawn tapestry of emotions to satisfy the reader.

Into this mix comes Jacob de Zoet a moral young man of integrity and honesty. Trusting in his faith and his belief in promises made, naïve in the ‘wicked ways’ of the world he is no match for the combined cunning of both the Dutch and the Japanese. It is the story of the fates and fortunes of this young man and the woman he dared to love that we follow.  Two coloured threads in the densely woven cloth of the story.

David Mitchell has the happy knack of enabling one’s imagination so we can clearly view the sights, smell the mix of scents and odours, listen to the clamour and the silences. This story is set in the closing years of the 1700s and violence is rapid and many times casual, as it was throughout the world.  These are no worse, no better, than found at any time.

David Mitchell offers us a snippet of history invites us in to become part of it.  There is a lot to get one’s head around, from the names, ranks, the foreignness of the two cultures and their respective histories – the histories are such an integral part of what happens it is worth getting to grips with these:)

It is not for the faint hearted, not a book for casual reading on the beach or park bench, not one to be glanced at.  Every one of the 546 pages exude knowledge from their fibres.

One day I shall read it again.


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