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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Maybe I’m not supposed to talk about this, maybe it’s okay that I do – there were no firm instructions given for this sort of thing. Last month, after crying and whining to and ultimately threatening my Random House sales rep, I was kindly sent a manuscript copy of David Mitchell’s forthcoming novel, due to be published in the States on June 29, 2010. I don’t want to post a full-on review, filled with information that will ruin things for anyone interested, but I did finish reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet last night. Holy shit, what a book.

All I will say at this point is this:  it does not have the complex, head-exploding machinations of some of Mitchell’s past work (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas esp.) but 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. It is set in 1799 on the manmade, Dutch trading post island of Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. Jacob de Zoet is a clerk for the Dutch East India Company assigned to Dejima who just wants to do an honest job, make a little money, and work his way back home to his future bride. If only life in a David Mitchell novel were that simple.

The Dutch survive as Japan’s sole trading partner through an uneasy alliance based on the certainty of supplies from the outside world – what happens when something goes wrong on the supply chain? Jacob is faced with internal corruption and vicious political manuevering, the delicate balancing act of the Japanese partnership, a daunting language barrier, the mysterious banishment of the woman he loves, the hushed-up financial collapse of his employer, and an imminent attack by foreign invaders, all of which test the limits of his faith – a faith strictly forbidden in Japan on the cusp of the 19th century. 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…


2/6/10 update: Random House now has a site up for the new book: thousandautumns.com – complete with an excerpt and an advance copy request form, so check it.

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9 comments on “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

  1. Corey Wilde
    December 5, 2009

    Thanks for the rec, I hope to read this one when it hits these shores.

  2. Anonymous
    December 27, 2009

    I'm overjoyed it's a great novel….

  3. Anonymous
    December 29, 2009

    Wow, how privileged you are to have read it! I have huge expectations of this one, can't wait.

  4. Seth Marko
    December 30, 2009

    I am indeed lucky to have a job that affords me such perks – fear not, it will soon be available in your local shop. June 29, 2010 and well worth the wait.

  5. Teddy Kristiansen
    January 5, 2010

    Just saw this post. Would you be willing to part with your proof copy as I am dying to read the book. Please let med know.

  6. Seth Marko
    January 7, 2010

    Uh, sorry Teddy, 'fraid not.

  7. Gene
    January 13, 2010

    I'm wondering whether or not I should order the UK edition. It's coming out in May over there, I believe. I collect first editions and this guy is my favorite author. I just can't wait!

  8. Anonymous
    February 12, 2010

    anyone know if the advance copies are sent out on a rolling basis?

  9. Frank
    February 25, 2010

    I am insanely jealous of you reading this book. Mitchell is a wonderful writer and I have thoroughly enjoyed his ouevre thus far. Can't wait! Thank you for the endorsement Seth.

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2009 by in David Mitchell, Jacob de Zoet.
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