Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

               "Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, inveigles his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. And onward, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history." But the story doesn't even end there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.
Finalist for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

My thoughts:
I listened to this as an audio book.  The story jumps right in with Adam Ewing and the journal he is keeping of his voyage home to California and the Native groups and seamen he interacts with along the way.  All of a sudden you are on a new character in a new time and I felt a bit disoriented as the readers for the two characters had similar voices and the two stories blended together.  Then the story jumps again and again and introduces new times and new characters.  I was a bit worried that we wouldn't get to see if Adam ever made it home, if Robert finds a way to finish composing his song, if Luisa will find a way to get away from corruption and so on, but the book loops back and picks up with each of them so you can see some resolutions. 

As I was reading I was also thinking about the previews I have seen for the movie and pictured each of the actors in the parts I paired them with.  I wondered at times how the stories were connected, and I am not convinced every story is, but pairs of them have strings that connect them to others and move chronologically into the future and show ways in which our world has already changed and ways in which more changes could come.

While I may not have seen excellent reviews for the movie version of the book, I am looking forward to it being released on video so I can see how it was adapted for the screen.  I like to read books before seeing movies so I have a chance to experience them using my own imagery and imagination first.  I find that once I see a movie I have a much harder time enjoying the book, but the reverse does not seem to be the case.  Often times if I see a movie before reading the book I end up never actually picking the book up.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375507250
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/17/2004
  • Edition description: First U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528

Meet the Author

David Mitchell
David Mitchell is the author of the international bestseller The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, named a best book of the year by Time, The Washington Post, Financial Times, The New Yorker, The Globe and Mail, and The New York Times; Black Swan Green, which was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Time; Cloud Atlas, which was a Man Booker Prize finalist; Number9Dream, which was short-listed for the Man Booker as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and Ghostwritten, awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for best book by a writer under thirty-five and short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. Hailed as “the novelist who’s being showing us the future of fiction” by The Washington Post, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. He lives in Ireland.

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