Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book 7 The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - Japan

OK this is older young adult fiction (if that is possible) shall we say adult fiction? I do think students in their late teens will enjoy this book and they would also get great value from David Mitchell's essay about historic fiction as a genre at the back of the book.

To describe this book as an eighteenth century love story is too limiting. It takes place in Edo-era Japan. The Dutch East India Company is stationed on the 120 metre-long artificial island . Theirs is the most significant contact Japan has had with the outside world since Portuguese missionaries were expelled. Dutch trade on the island is now the one opening Japan has to the outside world – a tiny valve for the exchange of goods and ideas.
Jacob de Zoet arrives on the island charged with cleaning up the accounts of an operation riddled with corruption. He is a man of integrity whose dedication to his role causes others around him to distrust and resent him. He meets a beautiful but scarred Japanese midwife who has been granted some limited contact with European medicine, Jacob finds himself in love but his affection is forbidden by tradition, culture, politics and law.
This unlikely and ill fated love story becomes more complicated against a back drop of Japanese political manipulation and the English navy advancing upon Japan. Mitchell also explores the idea of language acquisition, translation and interpretation. Cross cultural relationships in business, education and diplomacy between the Dutch and Japanese and later the Dutch and the English create dramatic storylines as well.
This is another book with its own website - with all the added extras - take a look.