Book review

Cloud Atlas

by David Mitchell

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect here – I’d previously read one of David Mitchell’s books and greatly enjoyed it, and was a little uncertain what I’d got myself into as I read the first section, a series of diary entries written by someone in 19th century New Zealand.

Then I was even more confused, when just as I was beginning to get the hang of things, and literally in the middle of a sentence, we jumped to the next section, to another continent and perhaps a hundred years later.

And so it continued. In the end, there were half a dozen sections, each lightly connected to the previous one and separated by some number of years. We see different narrative voices, many years apart, threaded cleverly together into a beautiful braid. The plot winds firstly forward through them, and then backwards.

The effect is beautifully done – the writing is entrancing, with great world-building and beautiful scenes created for you, all tangled through with intriguing plotlines. I didn’t engage with some of the characters as successfully as with others, but that’s perhaps always the nature of these things. And perhaps if I were picky, one or two of the plot lines were a bit forced. But overall, I greatly enjoyed it, despite my (snobby) uncertainly created by the “Selected by Richard and Judy book club” on the cover. Shame on me, and four stars for David Mitchell!

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