Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell

I hate to say it, but this novel is the biggest disappointment of the year. It is unfair for me to be so harsh. I haven't completed the novel. And, most likely, won't complete the novel anytime soon. I have tried, on three occasions, to read the novel. Each time I only make it as far as page fifty. There is something holding me back.

David Mitchell is one of my favorite contemporary authors. His style is refreshing. His word play, intelligent. His prose is heartbreaking and poetic. Ghostwritten, Mitchell's first novel, remains one of my favorite books. His second novel, Number9Dream, is a dreamworld of delight and surrealism. Cloud Atlas, the third novel, is his grandest novel in that it creates a nesting doll of a world crossing time and continent. Then, Mitchell released Black Swan Green. The novel considered by many to be a departure for Mitchell. When I first read the reviews for Black Swan Green I was nervous. Afraid to hear his style had changed. But, shortly after starting Black Swan Green I realized this was not the case. The novel holds up to all his previous novels. In fact, is probably his best written and most structured novel.

When reviews for Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet were released, I once again doubted the reviews. The statements of this being a historical novel should have scared me, but I assumed Mitchell was going to be playful. Include methods from previous works. Maybe fifty pages isn't enough for me to form a real opinion. Maybe his past styles are present in Thousand Autumns... but, if they are then I am missing them.

From what I read, this is Mitchell's strongest novel. The content is hefty. The characters are complex. All of this is wonderful. I'm pleased to see Mitchell expand his talent on each release. But, I am not a fan of the historical novel. And everything about this is extremely historical. I know in time I will return to the novel and read it due to my love of Mitchell's work. For now, it sits barely touched.

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