Monday, May 16, 2011


Quick Version:
Jacob De Zoet, an inconsequential clerk, hopes to make his fortune in Japan and return to the Netherlands to marry his sweetheart.  But life on Dejima, the Dutch trading post in early 19th Century Nagasaki harbor, does not always follow the chosen path of her inhabitants.
Long Version:
A bright young man, Jacob De Zoet was fairly certain of his ability to make a fortune and a reputation working for the Dutch East India trading company on Dejima, their island trading enclave in Nagasaki harbor, thereby rendering him acceptable to the father of the girl he wants to marry.
Jacob is a very solid character; he stands strong in his integrity-to the point of injuring his future prospects and rendering his fictional self an almost unbelievable character.  Author David Mitchell does a good job sketching a stable, solid character, but Jacob is so righteous that I had trouble accepting him.  He is clearly shown to be a very religious man-however, no man is perfect, and Jacob would have felt a bit more credible had he been a bit more flawed.
In its historical feel, the book reminded me a lot of James Clavell’s [B]Shogun[/B], although certainly not as broad in scope; [B]Thousand Autumns[/B] paints a vivid picture of the time and place in which it is set.
While I was disappointed in the characterization of Jacob, I must admit that the plot does not follow a predictable path, either in his life nor in the lives of his fellows.  Some aspects of the plot I found unbelievable, some I loved for how well they wove Japanese culture into the framework of the book, and some simply did not leave me feeling fulfilled (in other words, did not resolve the way I wanted them to resolve).
I chose, based upon several recommendations, to listen to this one on audio; I had been well advised to do so.  Narrators Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox both do an excellent job breathing life into their subjects.  Overall, this is a solid piece of historical fiction which gets my recommendation both as a novel and as a riveting audio performance.  It will definitely have me seeking out other works by David Mitchell.  


  1. Thanks for the review, Care. I've been wondering out whether or not to read this one since I've heard both good and bad things about it. I think I'll add it to my wish list.

  2. I did have a couple of issues with it, but other parts were marvelous! Definitely read it; it is worth your time. On Play Book Tag they are quite agog that I didn't love it.

  3. I wanted to let you know - I got my package yesterday! Thanks you so much! I am wearing the T-shirt right now, I love it! Can't wait to start the book but unfortunately will have to put it on the back burner for now.

    Thanks again, it was a lot of fun!

  4. Let me guess, Wendy-a stack of books you have promised to review?