What They Say: The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the Japanese Empire's single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, and costly courtesans comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancee back in Holland. But Jacob's original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured 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 of which will extend beyond Jacob's worst imaginings.
What Elaine Says: Wow. I'm a little late to the whole David Mitchell phenomenon but hey, arriving late to the party is preferable to not even knowing it's happening. This is a heck of undertaking by the author. Set in 1799 Japan this book has all the markings of an epic and yet we, quite intimately, follow the lives of two people who don't quite fit into the worlds they have found themselves in.
Funny, touching and rather gruesome in parts this book is really does have it all. It's rather wonderful in fact.
I'm not normally a huge fan of historical fiction (Mantel aside) but something about Mitchell's writing is so fresh and bold it keeps you glued.
I'll definitely be seeking out more of Mitchell's writing.
Elaine's Rating: 8/10
“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.”