Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November British Book Challenge: Cloud Atlas

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Published: Sceptre, 2005
A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’ s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.


Star parts: I read Black Swan Green a good few years ago, and it's a novel that's stayed with me. The MC in that book is a little older than I was in 1982, but I could relate to the lens through which he lived those years. So having really enjoyed that book and having heard some stuff about Cloud Atlas I thought I'd get it. So straight away this book is so different. Secondly, I don't read historical fiction, so on it's own, I probably wouldn't have picked up Adam Ewing's journal or the Letters from Zedelghem. I have no patience for crime fiction, so the Luisa Rey mystery probably wouldn't make it onto my shelf. Timothy Cavendish's story was amusing, I haven't read sci-fi for years and as for dystopian futuristic novels, they are generally on hold at the moment. So having detailed how I wouldn't read any of these books individually, let me tell you how I raced through the first half of the book. Some of the facts of Adam Ewings journal are historically factual. The story was fascinating, although I worked out the twist, but the characters seemed extremely authentic to me and then it ended. In the middle of a sentence at that. 

The Zedelghem journal reminded me a little of Fitzgerald. I loved the Luisa Rey's diaries. Here I recognised the Mitchell of Black Swan Green. He recreated the late seventies, the party scene, the changing face of society with women in top jobs, but just early enough to be lacking some key technology. Cavendish's story takes us to England and plays with the idea of memory and people's perceptions of what we remember. I found this part poignant and amusing. I liked Somni's story if only because the brands have taken over the world. It's not so far from reality people. Then Zachary's story was, I think the best. Again Mitchell played with language and dialect, but I liked it because in the end it was the one story that went from beginning to end. It made me question who we are as humans and all our beliefs. Also in this story and the orison story the characters were naive and yet completely authentic.

Black clouds: But by the second half of the book, I slowed right down. All the clever interweaving was clear now (I thought) and I enjoyed some of the stories more than others. Plus because of the way the stories were split up, I felt like I'd forgotten some of the details of the first part of the stories.
   Do I recommend it: But you know, in the end the book was pretty amazing, 
 you've got to hand it to Mitchell. When I think of the amount of work that would go into one part of the novel, let alone the six different parts. Then there's the fact that each different part is carefully interwoven into each part. It's an amazing force of imagination and if I could write just one of these novels let alone all six in one book, well you know, I'd be chuffed. So yeah, if you haven't already, read it. But maybe a bit quicker than I did. And I hope you love Zachary's story as much as I did. 

This is the twelfth book I've reviewed for the British Book Challenge, which means that I have COMPLETED the challenge. But more importantly, I've read a dozen more children's and YA books that I did last year and I'd like to thank Becky for the necessary kick up the proverbial backside I needed to do my research. I have read a couple of adult books this year, but I haven't missed them a great deal and I really feel like this challenge has helped my writing. I now have a HUGE pile of books to read by my bedside. So with that, I'm going to head off there right now and carry on reading Unhooking the Moon.

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