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In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable.
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful 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 daughter of a samurai doctor and 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 will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.
"It’s as difficult to put this novel down as it is to overestimate Mitchell’s virtually unparalleled mastery of dramatic construction, illuminating characterizations and insight into historical conflict and change. Comparisons to Tolstoy are inevitable, and right on the money."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Mitchell’s rightly been hailed as a virtuoso genius for his genre-bending, fiercely intelligent novels...The Thousand Autumns of Jacob is a dense and satisfying historical with literary brawn and stylistic panache. "—Publisher’s Weekly,, starred review & Pick of the Week
"Despite the audacious scope, the focus remains intimate; each fascinating character has the opportunity to share his or her story. Everything is patched together seamlessly and interwoven with clever wordplay and enlightening historical details on feudal Japan. First-rate literary fiction and a rousing good yarn, too."—Booklist, starred review
"Extraordinarily entertaining and well-realised… His writing just gives intense pleasure."–The Guardian
"How on earth does [Mitchell] do it? He can write as thrillingly about large-scale events as he can about the tiny details of the private world. Such fluent and masterful command of both domains seems the stuff of a true artist's gifts, not the laborious work of craft and toil. Not the least astonishing facet of Mitchell's art is the supple effortlessness he brings to creating worlds entire: worlds so credible and fully formed that one is compelled to allow to pass through one's mind the absurd thought he was, perhaps, an inhabitant of Japan in 1799. What Adam Thirlwell has provocatively said about Tolstoy as a miniaturist applies equally to Mitchell...This novel is a thriller with a glittering seam of a love story running through it (or is it the other way round?). . . it is a sumptuous historical novel on the collision of cultures . . . The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is vertiginously ambitious – and brilliant."—The Times, London
"This is probably Mitchell’s most accessible book. It runs to almost 500 pages, yet almost every sentence shimmers with precise, opaque and brilliantly realised writing. . . An historical saga on a deliberately grand scale, it never loses its quiet intimacy and is a brilliantly realised account of two worlds."—The Irish Times
"Mitchell has built a reputation as just about the most audacious, thrilling and, above all, entertaining young British novelist there is. He's that genuine rarity, a writer of startling ambition whose work is challenging and unconventional, yet whose storytelling gifts keep you turning the page…. [The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet] may just be Mitchell's most ambitious book yet. . . [he is] the magician of modern fiction."—The Guardian