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The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, and costly courtesans comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken—the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.
“A page-turner . . . Mitchell’s masterpiece; and also, I am convinced, a masterpiece of our time.”—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“An achingly romantic story of forbidden love . . . [David] Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. . . . A novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between [that] confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive.”—Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review (front-page review)
“The novelist who’s shown us fiction’s future has written a classic tale . . . an epic of sacrificial love, clashing civilizations and enemies who won’t rest until whole family lines have been snuffed out.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Mitchell’s] most emotionally engaging novel yet.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times