Mitchell again. Having taken the plunge with the lesser-known The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I thought I’d better read the one that my favourite Professor saw fit to have on her shelves. Cloud Atlas is in many ways a more ambitious novel than The Thousand Autumns… and it seems to be the novel that ‘made’ David Mitchell; shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2004.
I don’t want to say too much about it.
It’s roughly five stories going full tilt the whole way through. No mean feat. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that pulls off this fragmented and contrived style with such grace, seamlessness and panache. From the not-too-distant past to the not-too-distant future, we encounter diary entries, interviews, first-person accounts, third-person narration and love-letters. We travel through time through the beguilingly simple medium of individual narratives. Lives interweave occasionally, science fiction rears its head just visibly. The future episodes in particular are very well considered. Pollution, rampant consumerism, the failure of democracy and huge disparities in wealth, health and opportunities are big themes dealt with a light but powerful touch. Cloud Atlas shows us a plausible world gradually and irredeemably made toxic by the many and various permutations of man’s will to power.
Very, very readable.