Fifteen or twenty near naked carpenters are perched on the frame of a new warehouse ‘Idler than a gang of gin-soused Finns…’ mumbles Van Cleef
Mid July 1799 and idle carpenters are one of the many marvels that Jacob de Zoet sees as he sets foot on Dejima, the small man made island in the bay of Nagasaki, that will be his home for the forseeable future..
So a a little while ago I raved about how enjoyable Aminatta Forna’s the Memory of Love is, and how it was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, hyperbole almost certainly. I even declared, with absolute certainty, that it was probably my favourite ever book. And it was. Unfotunately for Aminatta, her place at the top has been relatively shortlived, the memory of love has been dissolved in a thousand autumns.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is delicious
Everything from the characters and the descriptions are perfectly written and immerse you into the few cross streets that make up Japan’s sole gateway to the world at the end of the 18th Century, bustling with Dutch, Chinese, the odd Yankee and Irishman, a whole school of interpreters (whose inclusion allows for some great devices during the narrative), and one female Japanese midwife.
‘You are most kind to remember.’ Jacob breaks off a half-dozen young sprigs ‘Here you are.’ For a priceless coin of time, their hands are linked by a few inches of bitter herb, witnessed by a dozen blood-orange sunflowers.
I don’t want a purchased courtesan he thinks. I wish to earn you.
Unico Vorstenbosch’s is a man with a mission, to root out corruption in the Dutch East Indies Company (the VOC) on Dejima. In his wake trails Jacob de Zoet, a clerk,and their impact on the inhabitants of the small enclave, including the mischievously devious Dr Lucas Marinus, Arie Grote, a man who could ‘sell sheep shit to shepherds’ and William Pitt, a monkey. The story follows both the fortunes of de Zoet, and Orito Aibagawa over almost a 20 year period, as well as hinting at changes within Japan itself, the end of the VOC and the arrival of the British in Japanese waters, based loosely on actual events, but with a fair dose of David Mitchell’s imagination, all written in absolutely sumptuous prose and a with some brilliant humour that made me laugh out loud and deepened my absolute love for a close to perfect novel.
I won’t say anymore, my book reviews are like a scribble trying to illustrate a monet, but I will say read this book..if your like me, at the end you will feel as if you’re marooned in the bay of Nagasaki, you can’t go back, but you’re not quite ready to leave.