You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The word "foreign" has lost of its meaning in this time when you can cross half the world in a day and teleconference with people all over the planet. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell creates the world of Japan in 1799, a society that is closed and far removed from Western life. Jacob de Zoet is a young clark starting a five year assignment in Dejima, the Dutch trading outpost in Nagasaki Harbor. Jacob's first duty is to audit all the books of the last several years to get at the bottom of the corruption rampant in the Dutch East Indies Company.

Jacob soon falls in love with Orito, a midwife and daughter of a local doctor. However he is powerless when Orito's father dies and her stepmother sells her to a nearby monastery. Orito is shocked to learn of what actually happens at the monastery, but she is torn between her horror and the knowledge that she can use her skills to save the lives of the women there.

Jacob finds himself in a moral dilemna when he must choose between his ideals and loyalty to the company, or his career and loyalty to his supervisor. The corruption that he has been trying to stamp out proves too ingrained. Yet even after his choice, there are more surprises in the story. He realizes that the translator Ogawa shares his feelings for Orito, yet neither can do anything about her servitude. A strange sort of love triangle is the result.

It is the interesting characters and captivating setting that make the story fun. The characters remind be of a good Patrick O'Brian novel. There's Marinus, the cynical doctor; the rival clark Peter Fischer; the trading chief Unico Vorstenbosch; and several Japanese translators of differing agendas. Each character is unique and compelling. Add in a mysterious secret cult, divisions among the Dutch men, economic uncertainty, and the possibility of the company failing, and there is enough intrigue to make a great story. A

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