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Ghostwritten. A Novel in Nine Parts. Broché – 1999

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Format: Relié
This is David Mitchell's debut novel, and it has received some lively reviews. It's an ambitious book, which goes from East to West. Ghostwritten seems to follow an Edward Rutherfurd format: nine individual stories that are subtly linked. It's like the Six Degrees of Separation or the Kevin Bacon game, whereby everybody on the planet is linked much more closely to each other than we would have ever imagined. Half the fun of Ghostwritten is trying to spot references from all the other stories. Despite having such seemingly random stories, Ghostwritten does follow quite a strict chronology. There's also a slight element of the ballad in these pleasing repetitions and hooks.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5 202 commentaires
80 internautes sur 86 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fearless feast of a book 18 décembre 2000
Par Lynn Harnett - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Ambitious, complex, and intriguing, Mitchell's first novel grapples with the paradox of a small, vast world. His nine interlocking chapters (plus a tenth which circles back to the first) are narrated by a disparate lot from around the globe, connected sometimes by only a glimpse and a fleeting thought, sometimes by more fateful encounters. As the book proceeds, more connections become apparent, most of them random.
It's an intriguing organization, best followed by reading the book in one sitting, so as to keep track of the various plot threads and people. However, at 426 pages, this is unlikely for most readers.
But Mitchell's novel is more than a philosophical play on fate and chance and the six degrees of separation that radiate from us in all directions. The novel is filled with real characters, some venal and pathetic, some appealing, a few remote, one repellant. The settings range from self-consciously contemporary Hong Kong and earnest, teeming Tokyo to a tight-knit island off the Irish coast, the Mongolian desert, a remote Chinese mountain, a late-night radio station in New York, the streets of London and the bleak underside of post-Soviet St. Petersburg.
One narrator is a bent lawyer haunted (literally) by the ghost of a little girl, a pawn to his own greed, trapped by his estranged wife, his rapacious Chinese maid and his high-powered, crooked employer. Another is a self-deluded Russian woman, trying to escape her life by a big score in stolen art. The book opens with the fervid ramblings of a Japanese cult fanatic, a terrorist who planted poison gas on a Tokyo subway, and closes with the same or similar narrator.
A young musician and writer in London, whose life is adrift, saves a stranger from being rundown by a taxi, drifts some more, then makes the big decision he's been wrestling with all along. A young jazz musician in Tokyo, also adrift, makes a leap for love. A brilliant physicist whose discoveries are used in the Gulf War flees home to Ireland but is forced to succumb to the strong arm of the American military.
Some chapters are more successful than others. Which these are, however, is a matter of taste. The writing soars energetically throughout but styles, moods, even genres vary. Mitchell employs ghosts, apocalyptic scenarios, sociopathic thugs both criminal and sanctioned, as well as ordinary longings, ambitions, loves and failures.
An old Chinese woman narrates my favorite chapter. Her long and eventful life is lived entirely around her tea shack on a rural mountain path leading to a Buddhist temple. Here she is raped by a warlord and abused and despised by her lazy father. The Japanese invasion comes to her mountain and then the Chinese Nationalists, the Communists and the cadres of the Cultural Revolution each in turn bring violence and destruction to her life and livelihood. And each time she rebuilds her shack. She finds solace and companionship in a speaking tree and grows wise in the ways of the world without ever venturing into it. Hers is a marvelous voice, sharp without being hard, sardonic but never jaded, full of life and wit and complexity.
Another favorite is the chapter that follows, in which a transmigrating spirit goes on a pilgrimage to discover its origin and meaning. The spirit moves from person to person by touch and crosses Mongolia in pursuit of a folktale, inhabiting a Western tourist, a suspicious old peasant woman, a shaman, a vicious killer and more. Exploring the human psyche, it struggles to do no harm but its own goal remains paramount. Delightfully strange.
As for flaws: some characters are less well developed than others and the apocalyptic elements are jarring and unconvincing. The penultimate chapter brings us to the brink of World War III which may have been brought on by a well-meaning artificial (possibly) intelligence with godlike access to our technology. The transition from explorations of human nature, connections and chance to a sci-fi parable is unconvincing at best.
But Mitchell writes with the confidence of an artist with no fear. He will try anything, no matter how fantastic or mundane. His writing switches from displays of virtuosity to sober meditation, his point-of-view from intimate exchange to global conspiracy.
An excellent, engaging book, sure to attract as much criticism as praise, which is by no means a bad thing.
41 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 More Than a Ghost 11 février 2002
Par Kathy Turner Meyer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I did something with this book that I have never done before. I finished reading the last line of the book, closed it, took a long breath, and opened it right back up again to page one and began rereading. The only difference was for the second reading, I took copious notes to accurately map the story and the layers of people and places which make this book so wonderful. It was the only way to really absorb the minutiae of detail that collectively makes up the whole book.
I imagine many readers were turned off by the intensity and layering of the detail, but I thrived on it. For me, the denser, more intricate the storyline, the happier I am, and I must say this book made me happier than any other book that I have read in some time for that specific reason.
Each chapter is a story unto itself, and yet each story is tied to the others by layers of small detail. It was a stroke of genius on Mitchell's part to structure the book as he did. Chapter ten, the last chapter, detailed Quasar's act of terrorism in the Tokyo underground, but the action actually took place before the opening of chapter one. Quasar, the mentally unbalanced cult follower, experiences in his final moments on the train all the clues to the stories of the lives depicted in the previous chapters. This construction allowed Mitchell to tie together, in just a few paragraphs, all the loose ends that plagued each separate story. Very effective.
I could go one at length about the richness of the layered stories and how one life is unknowingly built on the basis of another, and how Mitchell helps the reader through constructive symbolism to understand the basis of human interaction and interdependence. Bat Segundo (ch. 9) plays Satoru's (ch. 2) tenor sax piece on his radio show, how both Neal Brose (ch. 3) and Roy (ch. 7) make a mess in the kitchen by using two coffee filters in their machines, Quasar (ch. 1) and Mo Muntervary (ch. 8) both describe the world as a sick zoo, and everyone felt the breath on the nape of their necks. It is the clever layering of such detail that propels the story forward, and occasionally backward. The introduction of the noncarpum (ch. 5) seemed initially to be the element to tie the stories, but it wasn't. It was the human interaction that kept the story active, not unlike real life.
92 internautes sur 101 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Almost great 30 juillet 2004
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
About half-way through this book, I was starting to believe this would be a great book. I don't just mean good; I mean great. The author has a tremendous gift for narrative, with many descriptions and phrases that would inspire both awe and envy in anyone who appreciates the mechanics of writing. The characters are vividly drawn so that the reader cares about each one, which is no mean feat considering the range of characters involved - including one who is impossible to like and one who's not even human. Best of all, the slow emergence of links between what at first seem totally unrelated storylines is done to perfection. I was in heaven.

Then I hit the last two chapters. Where I had come to expect magic, as all of the storylines finally converge, I got...what? Very suddenly, with only the most tenuous connection to the rest of the story, this non-point-of-view character with tremendous power appears, as though the author just read about "deus ex machina" and decided to give it a very literal interpretation. Then one of the characters who had actually drawn our sympathy earlier, who had been most central to the converging storylines, gets dispatched in an almost offhand way. Many of the connections established before are just left hanging, as though someone had punched a huge hole through the just-woven fabric of the story up to that point. I can almost see the author losing energy or interest, after the painstaking effort to craft the earlier chapters, and slapping the rest together just to be done with it. Maybe an overzealous editor was involved.

However you look at it, though, the ending can only disappoint. I have never seen such an immensely promising book take such a precipitous nosedive at the end. I would seriously recommend that readers read revel in the the marvelous though incomplete story up to that cutoff point, and then stop instead of ruining the experience by reading the rest.
39 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Promising but uneven first novel 5 janvier 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Can't join all the Hooray Henries praising this as a "masterwork": it's a good first work of fiction, and Mr. Mitchell shows considerable promise, but "Ghostwritten" is, at best, a half-realized effort.
The book is a series of 9 loosely but cleverly connected vignettes tracing the joys and travails of a wide variety of contemporary characters: a millennial cultist, a young Japanese jazz lover, a stressed-out ex-pat Brit working in a shady Hong Kong securities firm, an old Chinese woman living in a tea shack, a St. Petersburg kept-woman, a London slacker, an Irish scientist, a New York DJ. The tales, which are essentially complete in and of themselves, are each told in the first-person, and are written in a variety of styles ranging from the pseudo-Amy Tan of the Chinese narrator to the Nick Hornsby-ish musings of the young Londoner scraping out a living by ghostwriting and playing in a band. Characters and incidents central in one tale reappear in fleeting glimpses, snatches and references in the other tales, suggesting something like "It's a Small World After All" and that we're all interconnected in ways that we can't really begin to fathom.
If this sounds a little New Age-y it's because it is-one section of the novel, "Mongolia," even follows a disembodied spirit as it migrates from host-body to host-body trying to unravel the riddle of its own existence. This is either your cup of tea or it isn't...for my part I found it pretty hokey. Mitchell is a keen observer and has a terrific knack for simile: when he's treating something down-to-earth like backpackers meeting on a train, or waking up with a hangover in a strange bed, or the sound of a jazz saxophone, or visiting a loved one with Alzheimer's, or the synergy between a medical and moral crisis (in the case of the Hong Kong broker) he's very compelling and provokes smiles or grimaces of recognition. When the author is indulging in flights of metaphysical fancy, however, he's merely tedious and borderline pretentious.
It seems to me that Mitchell is a talented miniaturist trying, unsuccessfully, to be a whole lot more. The sections that are the most realistic-Okinawa, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London-are far and away the most successful in the book. When Mitchell (a British citizen living in Japan) tries to write from a geography or cultural consciousness he knows less well he is unconvincing and clumsy. "Holy Mountain," for instance, with its improbably out-of-touch peasant woman narrator, recycles every cliché about 20th century China, and has a number of inconsistencies, such as the narrator mistaking a microphone for a "magic silver mushroom," but in almost the same breath making an off-hand reference to a jack-hammer. Or the "Clear Island" section, which is one half lyrical paean to rural Ireland, one half silly Frederick Foresythe spy-on-the-lam-from-a-sinister-global-conspiracy piffle.
It is the St. Petersburg section, however, that is almost comically inept, rife with error. While some of these mistakes are easy enough to overlook-such as when he has two ostensibly Russian women introduce themselves using "Miss" and "Mrs." (forms of address for which there are no equivalents in Russian) and then shake hands (something Russian women would never do among themselves)-others, like having a female character called "Petrovich," are unlikely to be missed by anyone who has ever been to Russia or read a Russian novel. Admittedly, this just comes down to poor editing...the real problems with the section are much more fundamental: an extraordinarily cheesy plot, which asks us to believe that priceless works of art are being successfully smuggled out of the Hermitage using a floor polisher; and the demeaning and deeply stereotyped portrayal of all the Russian characters, as one-dimensional and sinister as James Bond villains.
In the end, unfortunately, the pulpier parts of the novel subsume the more serious and restrained parts, and the book ends in a serio-comic vision of the coming technological apocalypse that could have been lifted straight out of Arthur C. Clarke. I don't mean that as a compliment. Hopefully next time around Mr. Mitchell will play more to his strengths as a particularist and leave the Pynchonian post-modern globe-hopping to...well, to the inimitable Pynchon himself...
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ambitious and Exciting First Novel 4 septembre 2001
Par David J. Schwartz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
David Mitchell attempts a lot in this first novel, and for the most part he succeeds. This is a book best read twice, in order to pick up all the subtleties of synchronicity woven into it. Nine characters spread across the globe are all part of the same story, most without realizing it. Or are they? It's not clear, at times, whether these are reliable narrators, and the narrative itself calls into question the nature of ourselves and our actions. What's most unsettling, and becomes the part of the book that simultaneously succeeds and fails most dramatically, is the shift of tone from one chapter to the next--from light romance to melancholy ghost story to heist caper, from New Age road story to small-town charming to impending Armaggeddon. While showcasing Mitchell's range, this fragments the narrative more than it should, so that the tales seem to stand more apart than together. Still, Mitchell is a hell of a writer, with a gift for description and a lively imagination. This deserves to be read, and you deserve to read it.
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