The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
2010, 530 pp
This historical novel is almost entirely set at the Dutch trading post Dejima, Japan’s only small window with a view on the outside world, in the late 18th century. A young Dutchman, Jacob de Zoet, wants to make his fortune there and takes up the job of a clerk. He has to clear up accounts in a place riddled with corruption. While his fellow Dutchmen give him the cold shoulder, he becomes friends with a local interpreter and the Dutch doctor, Marinus, who teaches medicine to a few students. Jacob falls hopelessly in love with midwife Orito Aibagawa. When her father dies, Orito is secluded in a remote temple, where women are kept for dubious purposes. The story takes another turn, when Dejima is threatened by a British warship. In the last part of the book the reader finds a wiser Jacob de Zoet, who has learnt to deal with corruption and betrayal, the hard way. The complex narrative, that is loosely based on facts, is a fascinating tale of 18th century Dutch trading with a completely different civilization.