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Friday, October 17, 2014

End Of The Slump

It's been three months since I finished a novel I'd not read before that was good enough to write about here. Now if only every novel slump could end with something as assured as David Mitchell's "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" (2010). Whoa - what a ride.

During my current class on the Beatles, when I began riffing on authors with craft comparable to the Fab Four, Mitchell was the first author that came to my mind. It's possible a different name would have come to me hadn't I recently finished "Thousand Autumns..." but the comparison is no less apt for the timing. Mitchell's command of this material is stunning and the sweep of his book is thrilling. The ten pages making up the last chapter of part III (eighteen pages before the end) contain some of the most breathtaking prose I've read in years. The scene: Two high-ranking officials of the Japanese government match wits in a deadly game with an outcome that will seal the fate of many innocents.

"Thousand Autumns..." is a much more straightforward narrative than Mitchell's tour-de-force "Cloud Atlas". At the same time, it is not a casual read. Mitchell's work shares an important quality with authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Hillary Mantel, William Boyd - all of these gifted writers have respect for the intelligence of their readers. Which authors that you enjoy share that quality?

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