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Ghostwritten Paperback – October 9, 2001


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The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell's hypnotic new novel crackles with invention and sheer storytelling pleasure. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724503
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"What is real and what is not?" David Mitchell's Ghostwritten: A Novel in Nine Parts plays with precisely this question throughout its elaborately compartmentalized narrative. (That there are 10 chapters in this 9-part invention is just one more aspect of the author's mysterious schema.) With its multitude of voices and globe-girdling locations--Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Petersburg, London--this first novel offers readers a vertiginous, sometimes seductive, display of persona and place.

At the heart of Mitchell's book is the global extension of the postmodern city, and the networks (cultural, technological, phantasmagoric) to which it gives rise. A metropolis like Tokyo is quite literally beyond our comprehension:

Twenty million people live and work in Tokyo. It's so big that nobody really knows where it stops. It's long since filled up the plain, and now it's creeping up the mountains to the west and reclaiming land from the bay in the east. The city never stops rewriting itself. In the time one street guide is produced, it's already become out of date. It's a tall city, and a deep one, as well as a spread-out one.
At this level, urban sprawl becomes an epistemological condition. On one hand it leads to a Japanese death cult, purging the "unclean" from the city's subway with nerve gas. And on the other, it produces a certain splintering of the human personality. "I'm this person, I'm this person, I'm that person, I'm that person too," chants Neal, the narrator of the book's second part. "No wonder it's all such a ... mess." He's talking about his life as a Hong Kong trader, a "man of departments, compartments, apartments." But he might also be describing the experience of reading Ghostwritten. At once loquacious and knowing, leisurely and frantic, Mitchell offers a huge, but fragmentary, portmanteau. And while he's labored diligently to solder together the many parts--the aching bodies, the reality police, the impossibly complex machinery of contemporary life--his novel, too, may suffer from an excess of split personality. --Vicky Lebeau --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Nine disparate but interconnected tales (and a short coda) in Mitchell's impressive debut examine 21st-century notions of community, coincidence, causality, catastrophe and fate. Each episode in this mammoth sociocultural tapestry is related in the first person, and set in a different international locale. The gripping first story introduces Keisuke Tanaka, aka Quasar, a fanatical Japanese doomsday cultist who's on the lam in Okinawa after completing a successful gas attack in a Tokyo subway. The links between Quasar and the novel's next narrator, Satoru Sonada, a teenage jazz aficionado, are tenuous at first. Both are denizens of Tokyo; both tend toward nearly monomaniacal obsessiveness; both went to the same school (albeit at different times) and shared a common teacher, the crass Mr. Ikeda. As the plot progresses, however, the connections between narrators become more complex, richly imaginative and thematically suggestive. Key symbols and metaphors repeat, mutating provocatively in new contexts. Innocuous descriptions accrue a subtle but probing irony through repetition; images of wild birds taking flight, luminous night skies and even bloody head wounds implicate and involve Mitchell's characters in an exquisitely choreographed dance of coincidence, connection and fluid, intuitive meanings. Other performers include a corrupt but (literally) haunted Hong Kong lawyer; an unnamed, time-battered Chinese tea-shop proprietress; a nomadic, disembodied intelligence on a voyage of self-discovery through Mongolia; a seductive and wily Russian art thief; a London-based musician, ghostwriter and ne'er-do-well; a brilliant but imperiled Irish physicist; and a loud-mouthed late-night radio-show host who unwittingly brushes with a global cyber-catastrophe. Already a sensation on its publication in England, Mitchell's wildly variegated story can be abstruse and elusive in its larger themes, but the gorgeous prose and vibrant, original construction make this an accomplishment not to be missed. 5-city author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, his newest novel The Bone Clocks has been selected for the 2014 longlist. Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell translated from the Japanese the internationally bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

This book is very well written, with beautiful language and characterization.
Robin Mayhall
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.
Kathy Turner Meyer
Throughout the entire book, each character gets their own chapter and it sure felt like a short-story on their own.
Zadius Sky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on December 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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81 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
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.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Turner Meyer on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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