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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

David Mitchell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (447 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.87
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas | Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable.

The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.

But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”

A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.

Praise for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
 
“A page-turner . . . [David] Mitchell’s masterpiece; and also, I am convinced, a masterpiece of our time.”—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
 
“An achingly romantic story of forbidden love . . . Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. . . . A novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between [that] confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive.”—Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
 
“The novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction has published a classic, old-fashioned tale . . . an epic of sacrificial love, clashing civilizations and enemies who won’t rest until whole family lines have been snuffed out.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
“By any standards, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a formidable marvel.”—James Wood, The New Yorker
 
“A beautiful novel, full of life and authenticity, atmosphere and characters that breathe.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2010: David Mitchell reinvents himself with each book, and it's thrilling to watch. His novels like Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas spill over with narrators and language, collecting storylines connected more in spirit than in fact. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, he harnesses that plenitude into a more traditional form, a historical novel set in Japan at the turn into the 19th century, when the island nation was almost entirely cut off from the West except for a tiny, quarantined Dutch outpost. Jacob is a pious but not unappealing prig from Zeeland, whose self-driven duty to blurt the truth in a corrupt and deceitful trading culture, along with his headlong love for a local midwife, provides the early engine for the story, which is confined at first to the Dutch enclave but crosses before long to the mainland. Every page is overfull with language, events, and characters, exuberantly saturated in the details of the time and the place but told from a knowing and undeniably modern perspective. It's a story that seems to contain a thousand worlds in one. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Mitchell's rightly been hailed as a virtuoso genius for his genre-bending, fiercely intelligent novels Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas. Now he takes something of a busman's holiday with this majestic historical romance set in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan, where young, naïve Jacob de Zoet arrives on the small manmade island of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor as part of a contingent of Dutch East Indies officials charged with cleaning up the trading station's entrenched culture of corruption. Though engaged to be married in the Netherlands, he quickly falls in hopeless love with Orito Aibagawa, a Dutch-trained Japanese midwife and promising student of Marinus, the station's resident physician. Their courtship is strained, as foreigners are prohibited from setting foot on the Japanese mainland, and the only relationships permitted between Japanese women and foreign men on Dejima are of the paid variety. Jacob has larger trouble, though; when he refuses to sign off on a bogus shipping manifest, his stint on Dejima is extended and he's demoted, stuck in the service of a vengeful fellow clerk. Meanwhile, Orito's father dies deeply in debt, and her stepmother sells her into service at a mountaintop shrine where her midwife skills are in high demand, she soon learns, because of the extraordinarily sinister rituals going on in the secretive shrine. This is where the slow-to-start plot kicks in, and Mitchell pours on the heat with a rescue attempt by Orito's first love, Uzaemon, who happens to be Jacob's translator and confidant. Mitchell's ventriloquism is as sharp as ever; he conjures men of Eastern and Western science as convincingly as he does the unscrubbed sailor rabble. Though there are more than a few spots of embarrassingly bad writing (How scandalized Nagasaki shall be, thinks Uzaemon, if the truth is ever known), Mitchell's talent still shines through, particularly in the novel's riveting final act, a pressure-cooker of tension, character work, and gorgeous set pieces. It's certainly no Cloud Atlas, but it is a dense and satisfying historical with literary brawn and stylistic panache.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2616 KB
  • Print Length: 530 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0812982339
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (June 29, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4CZM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,646 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
576 of 600 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This novel succeeds on so many levels - A+ April 28, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

The story begins in the year 1799, and most of the action takes place on the man-made island of Dejima in Nagasaki, Japan. This is the farthest outpost of the Dutch East Indies Company and foreigners are kept restricted to the island. It's the only contact point between Japan and the West.

This epic tale starts out dramatically with a young midwife helping a Japananese magistrate's concubine with a difficult birth. The midwife is named Orito Aibagawa, and she has a disfiguring scar on one side of her face. With the support of her father she begins to study medicine under the tutelage of the brilliant Doctor Marinus.

After this dramatic opening, we are introduced to Jacob de Zoet, a young Dutch clerk who has just arrived in Dejima. Jacob is hoping to work for 5 years and make enough money to go home and marry his fiancee. He stands out not simply because he is so virtuous and decent, but also because of the color of his hair - bright red. Jacob will learn that his fellow merchants, supervisors and Japanese translators are not always to be trusted, and that things are not always as they appear.

Other important characters in this novel include Ogawa Uzaemon, an honorable young translator who faces a difficult moral dilemma. We meet high-ranking Japanese officials including Magistrate Shiroyama and the malevalent Lord Abbot Enomoto. In fact there is a huge cast of characters, many with their own fascinating backstories. And did I mention a thieving monkey named William Pitt?

This book is wonderful on so many levels. It succeeds as a rousing old-fashioned adventure tale with nail-biting scenes taking place on both land and at sea.
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143 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History of Isolation May 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is quite simply the best historical novel I have read in years, Tolstoyan in its scope and moral perception, yet finely focused on a very particular place and time. The place: Dejima, a Dutch trading post on a man-made island in Nagasaki harbor that was for two centuries Japan's only window on the outside world. The time: a single year, 1799-1800, although here Mitchell takes the liberties of a novelist, compressing the events of a decade, including the decline of the Dutch East India Company and Napoleon's annexation of Holland, into a mere twelve months. He plays smaller tricks with time throughout the novel, actually, alternating between the Japanese calendar and the Gregorian one, then jumping forwards and backwards between chapters. The effect is to heighten the picture of two hermetic worlds removed from the normal course of history. One is Japan itself (the Thousand Autumns of the title), a strictly hierarchical feudal society, deliberately maintaining its isolation and culture. The other is the equally hierarchical society on Dejima itself, comprised of Dutch merchant officers, a polyglot collection of hands, and a few slaves, whose only contact with the outside world is the annual arrival of a ship from Java. To these, Mitchell adds two more hermetic worlds: an isolated mountain monastery in the second part of the book, and an English warship in the third. Without spoilers, I cannot reveal how these connect, but Mitchell's writing will carry you eagerly from one event to the next.

The author has the rare ability to work on three narrative scales simultaneously: small, medium, and large.
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270 of 310 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lively and entertaining--ephemeral June 18, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The confrontation between east and west, between xenophobic Japan and anyone from the outside world but especially Christian Europe, has generated many histories and history-based fictions. Among the best known is James Clavell's Shogun, and by far the best overall is Shusaku Endo's Silence. I mention these because the opening chapters of David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet instantly generate expectations based on those two novels, among others. The arrival of the young Jacob, a devout Christian, at the Dutch trading port of Dejima, adjacent to Nagasaki, is tense and threatening because he attempts to bring in a Psalter; if it is identified by the watchful Japanese officials, his least fate would be expulsion from Japan--but he might be subjected to far worse treatment. This begins Jacob's lengthy immersion in the stew of conflicting social and religious and cultural values that swirl in Dejima. In many ways, his worst conflicts are with his own countrymen, a variety of petty and sometimes grand thieves and swindlers whose frauds Jacob--an accountant who is assigned to bring the financial records of the Dutch East India post up to date and to some standard of honesty--inevitably is forced to reveal, with dire consequences because of the anger and hatred he generates when he undercuts the profitmaking schemes of the officers and employees of the shipping and trading companies. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent!
Published 7 days ago by Nancy Vincent
3.0 out of 5 stars really hard to follow
Long Dutch names, Japanese phrases left untranslated, made it hard to follow. I don't recommend it, it is long book too.
Published 16 days ago by Anonymous
4.0 out of 5 stars A far away tale of an unusual but recognizable life
Mr Mitchell has sufficient notoriety from fantastic creative abstracts. Here though, he imbues a tale of unusual life, in an exotic setting, with the pathos of the ordinary, and... Read more
Published 17 days ago by The Doc
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting historical novel to immerse yourself in
An interesting window into isolated Japan pre-1850s, and also a refreshingly sympathetic view of a how a strict protestant might have organized his life at that time. Read more
Published 20 days ago by DCD
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, the ending actually brough tears to my eye. Mitchell is just...
This seems like the perfect writer finding the perfect material. Mitchell's imagination, already ferocious and able to make seemingly anything work in his fractured, polyphonic... Read more
Published 20 days ago by jafrank
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I liked Black Swan Green far better.
Published 1 month ago by Jean A. Lamberty
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
Tremendous read! Mr. Mitchell is nothing less than an English Murikami!
Published 1 month ago by Jack
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
awesome
Published 1 month ago by Julee F Hilderman
5.0 out of 5 stars David Mitchell's strongest work!
I think this is probably David Mitchell's strongest work all around - I love the characters, the setting, and the voices that he chooses for each character. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Peter Borenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars " for anyone like me not knowing much about Japanese history
this is the third book I've read from the author, the other two being "cloud atlas" and "the boneclocks. Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. White
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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.

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