Someone to Read
I wanted to write about the glory of Smith and Edwards Country Store today. The family went there for an outing and it is truly an adventure. So much random stuff to see. I am unsure how to even approach that place. If I had been planning ahead, I would have taken pictures. Then the blog would be done!
I will save that for later…
Instead I feel like telling you about the novels of one of my favorite writers, David Mitchell
He has written five books so far and for me, each was better than the previous. My father pointed me towards his debut, Ghostwritten, a little over a year after its release. The book tells nine separate but linked narratives. They include a terrorist from Okinawa in hiding after an attack, waiting for orders, a record store clerk in Tokyo falling for a customer, an old woman running a tea shack in China who talks to her tree and a radio Deejay, talking the end of the world with a mystery caller. The stories jump back and forth through time, sharing common themes and threads, but distinctly different in voice. I rarely read books more than once, but I have read Ghostwritten three times.
He second Novel, Number 9 Dream, is a coming of age story of sorts. Set in Tokyo, the story blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, as Eiji Miyake searches for his father, finding himself emerged in the Tokyo underworld and a mysterious connection to the number 9 (the title coming from a John Lennon song).
Cloud Atlas is my favorite of Mitchells works. Again, the story is told from multiple perspectives and moves back and forth in time. The book begins with the journal of Adam Ewing and his journeys in the pacific ocean during the 19th century. It ends mid sentence and we move to a series of letters written during the 1930’s. followed by a 1970’s mystery story and then by a story about a 21st century publisher. A near future tale of cloning and revolution, followed by a post apocalyptic tale of an emerging, evolving tribal society ends the first half of the book, and we retreat backwards through the tales again. Again the narratives link together in unexpected and astonishing ways. What makes this novel different and my favorite is the manner it which it blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, fiction bleeds into real life and as the stories intertwine, it becomes difficult to separate them. This might be my favorite book of all time!
Bouncing back to a story about growing up, Black Swan Green takes us through one year in the life of 13 year old Jason Taylor. The year is 1982 and the Falkland War is just beginning. Set in Worcestershire, England, the story vividly captures what it was like to growing up in the early 80’s. We experience Jason’s despair at trying to replace his dead grandfathers watch he has broken, his wanting to fit it with the older, cooler kids, his infatuations with girls, first cigarettes, kisses and poignant deaths. This book is a departure as it is pretty straightforward. It is brutally honest and clever. A good, fast read.
Finally we come to the fifth novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. Again, using multiple narratives, Mitchell tells a story of Japan in the 18th century, when the Dutch were the only western nation allowed to maintain trade. A clerk, Jacob De Zoet falls in love with a Japanese woman, a midwife and daughter to a samurai doctor. His attraction to her proves detrimental to his position and places him in a position of extreme danger. The story then shifts, taking the reader on a bizarre journey into superstition and sorcery and a religious cult in the Japanese countryside. Political plots are hatched and executed, dramatic escapes and unspeakable violence occurs. The book’s climax is a siege and assault on the cult and one by the British navy on the Dutch. A very powerful book and one that I really need to read again.
I am anticipating the 6th novel which seems to again revolve around a coming of age tale.
I highly recommend any of these books.