The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

David Mitchell

First Sentence: ‘Miss Kawasemi?’ Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon.

This book is bursting with everything I love about great novels: Unforgettable characters, gripping plot and incredibly beautiful prose. It is, like all of Mitchell’s previous novels, quite simply stunning. It may not have the genre-hopping, boundary-pushing flourishes seen in the likes of Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten but to be honest, it doesn’t need them. This is a relatively straightforward tale: one where we are transported, along with the eponymous young clerk, to the far-flung man-made port of Dejima, Japan. Here we encounter many colourful characters, each one exquisitely drawn and each one with a story to tell. These characters combine with the exotic locations to provide a truly unique reading experience. An experience not soon forgotten, and one I’m sure I’ll re-live again.

* * * * *

Last Sentence: A well-waxed paper door slides open.

Last Sentence Explained: The final pages of this book are quite poignant as it takes the reader on an emotionally charged 5 page journey right through Jacob’s life post-Dejima, up until the point when he dies at home in Domburg. On his deathbed (now quite elderly), Jacob once again sees Orito Aibagawa and ‘her lips touch the place between his eyebrows’. The final sentence mirrors the final sentence of Part 1 of the book when Orito is dragged through the Land-Gate to be imprisoned: ‘The well-oiled bolt slides home’. She is trapped, but here at the end, Jacob is freed.

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