Best book I read in January

Talking about the best book I read in the past month.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

By David Mitchell
Random House, 2004; 509 pages.

I buy too many books in general, but I always have a particular urge to buy thick books. Somehow, I feel more justified spending money on a 600-page novel than on a 125-page collection of short stories. Thus, I was delighted to find a copy of Cloud Atlas at the biannual Friends of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library book sale (aka the greatest event in Charlottesville) for a mere $1.

I have been wanting to read this novel for a long time, particularly after I enjoyed Mitchell’s most recent novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, last year. I was also partially motivated by the release of the movie, which I still haven’t seen, and now I’m not so sure I want to see it. Because now I’m afraid that the film would spoil my memory of the book.

Cloud Atlas is a sprawling and fragmented novel, split up among various narrators in different places and historical eras. Essentially, Mitchell displays his profound talent for voices — voices in the sense of appropriating people. Every section could have been written by an entirely different, talented author, and yet every section bears this tight, dependent relationship with all of the other sections. It is an impressive feat and I don’t know how he did it.

Lately, I’ve been tired of novels that use this form (chapters each with their own separate narrators; e.g., The Imperfectionists), but Mitchell does it SO WELL that there is no reason to complain. None at all. Recommended!

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2 thoughts on “Best book I read in January

  1. I heard so many people say that they hated the movie (and thus the book) that I’m glad to hear someone love this one as unreservedly as I do!

  2. So, I actually saw the movie first and then was moved to read the book because I LOVED the movie and I also LOVED the book. I felt like they were the same in the essential places and different in ways that enhanced the movie for what it was without taking away from the book (in my opinion). David Mitchell has also done some interesting interviews on the process. But, anyways, I enjoyed both immensely. Disclaimer, though. I saw the movie in India and apparently some of the language and more disgusting parts were cut out or blurred…my sister (a nurse) said her co-worker saw it and walked out because some of it was too disgusting…I didn’t see those parts (thanks India censorship!).

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