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The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.
But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur, until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Kindle Customer on 10-26-12
Less about the arrival more about the ride
Exquisitely crafted and beautifully performed!
I confess to getting lost among the plethora of characters and situations; often struggling to remember who was who and what they were up to. I sometimes felt as though I were sitting too close to a large painting, only able to see details but unable to see the big picture.
In the beginning I occasionally felt like giving up, but decided to simply step back and enjoy the ride; hoping that, eventually, things would come together and the fog would clear.
The ride was fascinating; even when I wasn't always following the intrigues. Just being in this place; witnessing this culture, and its characters, was enough to keep me listening. I left like an observer who, while I didn't always know what it was all about, was fascinated by the personalities, the voices, the conditions and the strangeness of the Japanese culture of the period.
As it turned out I found myself enjoying many Aha moments, as pieces suddenly fell into place and situations became clear.
21 of 23 people found this review helpful
By Darwin8u on 08-13-12
A NEAR Perfect Novel.
Mitchell's got the precision of Roth, the bigness of Tolstoy, the ventriloquism of Pynchon and the heart of ... Hugo perhaps. IT is rare for me to find a book that hits me as hard as this one did. A near perfect novel.
42 of 48 people found this review helpful