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I like historical novels, but I also like reading history books (non fiction). I believe I have quite a good knowledge about history in general and some historical events in particular. It is difficult to write good historical novels (but it is also difficult to write any fiction of quality). There is a specific area of history which is called the history of ideas, where historians study what people (learned people or ordinary people) actually thought and believed in during defined eras of time. As you all well know, we take on new ideas and discard old ideas on a consistent basis, so our generation has a different set of frames of mind than even our parents had. Then think some five or ten generations back - they would beleive in things we are not even close to beleiving. I have one specific demand on writers of historical fiction: I want them to let their protagonists live in the frame of mind of their time. Very few writers of historical fiction do that. Instead they let their protagonists think like 21st century people. I think they fail in that aspect simply because they have not researched the ideas of the time in which they set their story. Precisely this error is made by this author. He sets the story in Japan some 200 years ago, with Japanese and Dutch people in his story. It is evident he has neither studied calvinistic thought (which would be the frame of mind for the Dutch at the time), nor has he read up on Shintu thoughts (which would prevail in the thinking of the Japanese at the time). Instead the Dutch think like hash-smoking youths in today's Amsterdam and the Japanese think like Toyota just-in-time manufacturing engineers. This makes the whole thing quite comical, but that is unintentional on the part of the author. I would not recommend this book for any other aspect either; it is not even interesting or suspenseful.
5 of 9 people found this review helpful
This story does a great job of conveying the historical context of 18th century colonial life, I'm looking forward to reading up on where the history finishes and the fiction begins.
What a marvellous tale - beautifully written and beautifully read. I was 'transported' in my mind to historical Japan and absolutely hooked throughout, waiting to see whether or not Jacob De Zoet would eventually succeed against all the odds being united with the Japanese lady he fell for early in the story. I have been listening to Audible books for well over a year and this is the best book yet - as a literary work and as compulsive listening - by far. I was so pleased to spend about 5 hours driving by myself so I could listen to the third and final part uninterrupted! Oh for more by this amazing author.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this audio novel. At first sight it seems quite a strange story yet it is absorbing and intriguing from the very start and one is quickly transformed. The writing is superb. Wonderful characters in cultural juxtaposition are vividly and lovingly brought to life by the narrators. We have played bits over again for the pure enjoyment and not because we fell asleep while listening! This is our book of the year.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful