Cynthia Ayala ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
By: David Mitchell
Published: August 19, 1999
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
David Mitchell’s electrifying debut novel takes readers on a mesmerizing trek across a world of human experience through a series of ingeniously linked narratives.
Oblivious to the bizarre ways in which their lives intersect, nine characters-a terrorist in Okinawa, a record-shop clerk in Tokyo, a money-laundering British financier in Hong Kong, an old woman running a tea shack in China, a transmigrating “noncorpum” entity seeking a human host in Mongolia, a gallery-attendant-cum-art-thief in Petersburg, a drummer in London, a female physicist in Ireland, and a radio deejay in New York-hurtle toward a shared destiny of astonishing impact. At first it appears as though they share nothing, until the smallest details show how much of an impact they have on one another’s lives.
This is a beautiful novel with amazing stories that intersect and affect one another in the most subtle of ways throughout the novel, which is separated into nine chapters centered around a particular character. It’s a little hard to get into the novel in the beginning because the character in Okinawa, the terrorist, seems more delusional than anything and doesn’t really appear to be a very likable character. However, the detail and structure of it, as well as the mindset and actions that take place, ensnare the reader into wondering how this particular story is going to influence others. He is a lost character who suffers internally more than anything, and it’s the littlest of details that influence the next storyline, setting off the chain of events.
This novel is incredibly intriguing and as a debut novel, worked brilliantly to connect the dots between the characters. That in itself was beautiful. Each character has nothing in common with the character from the previous section. They are each distinct in their lives, each having their own particular troubles that aren’t extraordinary. Everything in the novel is down to earth and founded in real life problems that could affect anyone at any time. That’s what captivates the reader most of all, that human connection most readers want, intertwining the lives of everyone else. This novel, much like Cloud Atlas, highlights how the smallest events can affect someone else’s life to such a degree. It was just so incredibly beautiful.
As far as detail went, it was amazing. The details in the novel are something you really have to pay attention to, but it’s not hard to pay attention to them, which is why it was a great novel. Everything is memorable to the point where you get sucked into the details and it blows you away when you see just how one thing comes up somewhere else in the novel, showing the connectivity of the human experience. Although, there were some scenes that could have better designed to make sure that the reader wasn’t lost, it was simply a beautiful novel. Not all of the characters incited sympathy due to their own misgivings, but those misgivings, the sordid lives and the pain they suffered from them, makes the reader think about reality. The novel was written with deep thoughts that made it masterful. ★★★★★ (A+)