Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

Set on the Island of f Dejima in Japan in the early 19th century, Jacob De Zoet was trying to make a name for himself. Jacob has come all the way from Holland as a young clerk in the hopes of making his fortune. The plan was to go back to Holland to his fiancée and marry her with the approval of her wealthy father.

While on Dejima, Jacob has a chance encounter with Ortio Aibagawa, a midwife who was granted permission to learn medicine under the tutelage of Dr. Marinus. It is very rare to see a Japanese woman unless she is a prostitute. Jacob becomes infatuated with her.

The first chapter of the book grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. It was of a childbirth that Ortio was midwife for. The child appeared to be dead but Ortio breathed life into him. It's too bad that the next 130 pages didn't hold my interest much. They were about the day to day business of Jacob as a clerk. To me they were boring and at times, hard to understand. I felt like I needed to have an interest in Jacob's job as a clerk, to understand what was going on. Historically, it seemed quite accurate but painfully boring to me.

When Ortio was brought back onto the pages, the story picked up again for me. She ended up in a horrific place that I had to see resolved. That is what kept me reading this book. It was these parts of the book that made me fall in love with David Mitchell's writing.

I have had David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green on my "to be read" list for a very long time. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is the first book I have read by him but certainly won't be the last.



  1. I couldn't be any more on the fence about this one. Something about it really appeals to me. I think part of it is that I love the cover! I have a feeling that I won't like it though.

  2. Stephanie, even though it was uneven for me, I am still glad I read it.

  3. I love David Mitchell but this was a real disappointment. I found his article about historical fiction interesting. I reviewed this for my website but found it a bit tedious. Too much research and not enough story?