le 15 octobre 2010
Shortly after its publication "The Economist" dismissed it, suggesting that once again David Mitchell had not fulfilled his promise despite a promising beginning and satisfying ending. But the reviewer failed to describe and qualify the richness of its almost 600 pages arranged into 5 parts and 41 chapters. Were they boring, were they bland? Poor judgment! The swish of the cane and the crack of the whip for this lazy reviewer.
In my humble opinion David Mitchell's tome of 600+ pages is a true masterpiece. It is based on solid research on 17th and 18th century Japan, on the history and final year of the VOC (Dutch East Asia Company), on the state of various sciences (economics, medicine, botany, pharmacology), on the art of diplomacy in Japan, and on the 150-year old history of Deshima (the VOC's trade post island linked to Nagasaki by a tightly-guarded stone bridge, the islet itself infiltrated and controlled by Japan's bureaucracy). It is also a love story, a triangle even between straight-laced Dutch VOC-clerk Jacob de Zoet, Japanese translator (3rd class) Uzaemon Ogawa, who are both about 26 years old and who both fancy the young, facially-disfigured but brilliant midwife Oriko, who aspires to become a surgeon.
The novel's length and contents suits the 18th or 19th century better than the 21st. After all, half of mankind is now constantly checking its mobile phones and other social networks for messages other than the release of a 600+ page novel. This awesome novel is about heavenly and earthly themes, such as fighting for or opposing traditions of science and religion, race and rank, high birth and low origins. Its principal venues are 2 very small, tightly-controlled territories the size of a football field: Deshima and the secretive Buddhist convent of Shiranui, where a strange insemination cult is practiced and to which Oriko is abducted and kept against her will. At times this novel reminds of another masterpiece situated in confined space, Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose".
This well-guarded convent is situated high up in the mountains of a thinly populated district, several days travel from Nagasaki and controlled by the immortal and powerful Enomoto, wearer of many hats. Separately, Jacob and Uzaemon feel terrible about Oriko's fate. When they drop their formal ways of address and other protocols, they conspire to rescue her...
Most of DM's book is situated in 1799 and 1800, but eventually it ends in 1817. It is a rich product of fact and imagination and somehow it contains five or six books in one volume. DM's sheer joy of writing inspires every page. It introduces and follows a dozen or more truly interesting characters, infuses lots of intrigue and plenty of twists and turns for readers who enjoy spending a few weeks with a very inspired and warm piece of writing.
Purely by accident and only a month ago, I read the late Michael Chrichton's 2009 novel "Pirate Latitudes". A comparison between the two books is opportune but beyond the scope of this review.
David Mitchell's novel is highly recommended.
le 4 avril 2013
J'ai ouvert ce livre, acheté un peu au hasard je l'avoue et l'univers décrit par D. Mitchell m'a véritablement fascinée : j'y ai découvert le Japon du XVIIIème siècle, ou plutôt les derniers soubresauts du comptoir hollandais des Indes Orientales (VOC) posé juste au bord de ce Japon cruel et mystérieux. Même si la langue extrêmement riche et le style foisonnant de Mitchell nous compliquent parfois un peu la tâche, la narration nous emporte totalement, comme un roman d'aventures bien ficelé , avec en prime une grande finesse psychologique et une documentation historique solide. Si vous cherchez un dépaysement de haute qualité, Jacob De Zoet vous attend !
le 31 janvier 2016
Le contenu de ce livre est fantastique, c'est pourquoi je tenais à l'offrir. Mais hélas pour ce Noël Amazon n'a pas été à la hauteur. Le livre est arrive dans son carton sans autre protection (meme pas un film plastique) et la couverture déjà abîmée, Pas assez pour que je le renvoie, mais assez pour que je sois déçue (je n'aurais pas choisi un livre abîmé en magasin) et que j'enlève une étoile.