Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on September 15, 2010
Posted in Books Read in 2010Historical FictionJapan  | 7 Comments

Set on the Island of f Dejima in Japan in the early 19th century, Jacob De Zoet was trying to make a name for himself. Jacob has come all the way from Holland as a young clerk in the hopes of making his fortune. The plan was to go back to Holland to his fiancée and marry her with the approval of her wealthy father.

While on Dejima, Jacob has a chance encounter with Ortio Aibagawa, a midwife who was granted permission to learn medicine under the tutelage of Dr. Marinus. It is very rare to see a Japanese woman unless she is a prostitute. Jacob becomes infatuated with her.
The first chapter of the book grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. It was of a childbirth that Ortio was midwife for. The child appeared to be dead but Ortio breathed life into him. It’s too bad that the next 130 pages didn’t hold my interest much. They were about the day to day business of Jacob as a clerk. To me they were boring and at times, hard to understand. I felt like I needed to have an interest in Jacob’s job as a clerk, to understand what was going on. Historically, it seemed quite accurate but painfully boring to me.
When Ortio was brought back onto the pages, the story picked up again for me. She ended up in a horrific place that I had to see resolved. That is what kept me reading this book. It was these parts of the book that made me fall in love with David Mitchell’s writing.
I have had David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green on my “to be read” list for a very long time. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is the first book I have read by him but certainly won’t be the last.
Thanks to Good Reads and David Ebershoff of Random House for an advance readers copy of this book.
Also reviewed by:

S is for the ship that Jacob De Zoet sailed on from Holland, Shenandoah and for the horrific place Ortio ended up at, The House of Sisters, Mount Shiranui Shrine.

David Mitchell is coming to the 2010 Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival.  He will be at four different events at the festival.  I will be seeing him at event #53, Japaning and event #62 The Sunday Brunch.  If your going to be in Vancouver, come join the fun!

Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Opening of Japan to the World
In Japan, at the age of 13, Hikoraro lost his mother and became an orphan. His stepfather gave him the choice of continuing school or become a sailor of his ship. Though he knew that his mother wanted more for him, he chose sailing.
Out on his first trip, there is a huge storm and the ship becomes lost and immobile at sea. Luckily an American vessel comes upon the ship and rescues all of its occupants. Eventually they sail to San Francisco. The story then goes on to how the castaways keep trying to make their way back to Japan and what happens to them, including Hikoraro.
This is the story about both the castaways and how Japan finally opens up to American and the world. It is also the story about Hikoraro and how he became caught up between two worlds, Japan and America.
Though I found the historical aspect of this book fascinating, the story of the castaways’ fell flat for me. There was no emotional depth to any of these characters, and while I was concerned about what would happen to them, I kept reading because of the history. This my be in part because of how the book was translated, but I’m more inclined to believe that it was because Yoshimura chose to use very little dialogue.
Besides the problem with the characters, I also found parts of this book to be quite repetitive. I think that much more editing and polishing was needed.
Non the less, I found this book worthwhile and do recommend it for those who are interested in the opening of Japan.
Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Japanland: a Year in Search of Wa by Karin Muller

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on November 2, 2007
Posted in Books Read 2007JapanKarin MullerMemoirMy 1st Post  | 6 Comments

A Western Woman’s Perspective, Japan

Karin Muller set off to explore and immerse herself in Japanese culture. Having a black belt in Judo, she lived with a host family who’s head of household taught Judo. She practiced judo with him and how to be a Japanese housewife with his perfectionist wife, Yukiko.

While Karin failed at cooking and took brutal wallopings while practicing Judo, she succeeds at finding out about Japan’s culture and people.

Karin Muller brings the people, place and culture of Japan to life. I felt as if I was there with her, sharing her funny, laugh out loud moments, frustration, and awe.

Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.