Books, Thoughts

The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet- review

The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet is my second book by David Mitchell. The first one was Ghostwritten. I read it ages back in college and loved it, the stories and the way they wove around one another was very interesting. So I picked up this book expecting a bit of the same magic and originality. I got the originality but the magic was eaten up by the details.
The story is set in the late 18TH century in Japan. Japan is a closed country. No one is allowed to travel outside its boundaries and only the Dutch are allowed to trade from Dejima. They are kept enclosed and not allowed to converse with the inhabitants other than those officially helping them. In such an environment arrives Jacob, a zealous and conscientious clerk. In Dejima he sees Miss Aibagawa, the only Japanese lady allowed in Dejima to learn from the knowledgeable Dr. Marinus and falls headlong into love. The love is almost unsaid, the barriers are too high and Jacob’s wooing words constrained due to spying ears. But the story is not only about love, it is about that part of the world in the 18th century. David Mitchell tries to tell every detail in that environment and that I think fails the story. I am not much for reading details and end up jumping paragraphs to find the story. There are a few twists in the tale that make it more interesting, but due to the details, the pace of the story gets amply reduced. it echoes the traditional dance movements of a soft swaying Japanese dance with exotic costumes and heavily made up faces- interesting to watch but a little too exotic.

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