Sunday, 12 May 2013

BOOK: Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (9/10)

Why did I read it?
Cloud Atlas came to my attention on a list I saw (I would like to give credit but it was so long ago I've no hope of remembering it) that recommended books to read before their film adaptation was released in 2012. I didn't catch the film while it was out so the book will have to do until I do.

What's it all about?

Beginning in the Pacific in 1850 and ending in post-apocalyptic Hawaii in the far future, Cloud Atlas narrates the stories of six individuals linked together across centuries of time. Half of each story is told, in chronological order, until each is interrupted seemingly incomplete. This continues to the sixth story which is told in it's entirety before each of the stories are then concluded in reverse order.

Should you read it?

Cloud Atlas is certainly one of the most ambitious books I have ever read. Covering such a variety of settings, dialogues, plots and means of narration is a challenging read but the read always stays fresh and the reader is always aware that the story will be changing just around the corner. 

I'll admit that I did not enjoy the first half of the first story, 'The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing', and it took me until the second story, set in inter-war Belgium, and the appreciation of this story's antagonist of the first story and the connection between the two to really pique my interest. From this point on though I was hooked. The concept of leaving each story incomplete, using the following story to fill in some blanks, before closing the stories in reverse order had me reading at record speed to return to the incomplete stories.   

Capable of some wry humour, grand themes and a rather bleak outlook on the future of human civilisation, Mitchell provides the reader with a fascinating journey from past to present to future. However, on the subject of grand themes, I can't help feeling that I didn't quite fully appreciate the notion of the characters being reincarnations of themselves. Mitchell details the identical birthmark that several characters share (or mention anyway) and Luisa Rey knows deep down that she has heard Frobisher's composition before but without having read the ideas of reincarnation in connection with the film I would have been in doubt (and I still am!) as to Mitchell's grand meaning.  

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