Monday, May 19, 2014

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Such a lovely title!

I bought this book at Dubai airport - early January. Limited selection, but the cover and the title, and given that this is from David Mitchell (I could not put down Cloud Atlas once I started it), and I had a long economy flight ahead of me, made me buy this. And I am very glad I did.
So this is a stumbling book, rather than a planned purchase.

This book raised several thoughts & ideas - one to do with historical fiction, and how insatiable our desire to know about the times past, the times that shaped the current world is. And as insatiable the desire is, the answers are impossible. There is simply no way of knowing how things were or what people thought about the world around them, or what stories and lives different from ours lived on this planet.

The more the world grows smaller, the similar we are becoming. But this book talks about 1799, about Japan, and about foreigners (Dutch) trading with Japan, trying to pry out the real Japan from the obscurity veils. And the peek inside is like Alice's party in Wonderland

The book pulled me in, and created this beautiful reality in a world two centuries ago which seems impossible to live in from today's stand point (but not as unique from the times I was born in)

The world still was unexplored, unclaimed by the Europeans and the English, and the people had much of their own original cultures and society with all their good and bad. And then there is this intersection, and the amount of learning, the bridges that those few individual must have crossed are big ones. It would be like coming across a new society on moon for us.

The first third of book was amazing, then a bit of a drag, and somehow the people I was rooting for, in the book seemed to go low in significance, and somehow, it felt as if there is no victory of good over bad (I have been fed on stories of good over bad since younger days - all with the mythology, even though everyday see circumstances to the opposite. But it is still gives hope), and the book puts the people in such hopeless places, it becomes unbearable for a little while before picking up again the fun in the last one third.

I was left asking for more in Cloud Atlas. the premise was amazing, but as amazing the premise was, I was seeking justice to what happens. It should have had some more things happen. which didn't
And so goes with this one...it tries to touch the grandness, and then it becomes the commonplace.

The title is drawn from one of the lovelier names of Japan - the land of thousand autumns.