Housing crisis

13 02 2016

Slade House by David Mitchell

51mKYdkW9jL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.

A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.

This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…

I do like David Mitchell (and the other one) but this is not one of his finest. It’s a bit spooky and strange and reasonably suspenseful at times but quite repetitious. The novel’s really well-written, of course, but ultimately rather slight.

stars-3-5

Advertisements




Clocking on

19 07 2015

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

51oUUUYcbUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_

 

One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .
The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.
Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable best.

Do love David Mitchell’s writing and, although this one has not enjoyed universal acclaim, the Bone Clocks feels like classic Mitchell. Very much in similar vein to Cloud Atlas with its distinct but interwoven narratives this really does tick along fantastically well.

four stars





Forever Autumn

14 04 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

From the Observer review in 2010:

It takes place at the turn of the 18th century, in Edo-era Japan. The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) has requisitioned the 120 metre-long artificial island of Dejima, in the bay of Nagasaki, as a trading post. Theirs is the most significant contact Japan has had with the outside world since Portuguese missionaries were expelled by the Tokugawa shogunate, and Christianity eradicated. That closing-off of Japan was described in Shusaku Endo’s masterly and desolate 1966 novel, Silence, and Mitchell’s book – teeming where Endo was bleak – is, in some sense, its successor. Dutch trade on the island is now the one opening Japan has to the outside world – a tiny valve for the exchange of goods and ideas.

Jacob de Zoet is an uptight young Dutch book-keeper, charged with cleaning up the accounts of an operation riddled with corruption as Dutch power fades and English naval power looms. Possessing no navy of its own, Japan is both fanatically insular and increasingly vulnerable. Encountering a beautiful but scarred Japanese midwife who has been granted some limited contact with European medicine, Jacob finds himself in thrall to a love forbidden by tradition, culture, politics and law.

The object of this ginger-haired naive’s hopeless desire, Miss Aibagawa, is bound by the highly stratified social order of Japanese society and then purchased by the abbot of a secretive mountain shrine, where a form of sexual slavery is practised by the monks. A rescue attempt, in the form of a samurai raid on the shrine, briefly makes you suspect the novel is going to turn on a thriller plot but, thrilling as this episode actually is, it rather turns on the murk of politics and the complex allegiances of a feudal society. Miss Aibagawa is no cipher of the mysterious “other”: her own medical gifts prove more useful to her than her would-be rescuers and, as a character, she is at least as fully realised as de Zoet.

With Enlightenment ideas and European corruption washing up to the Japanese coastline, Mitchell creates, in Dejima, a single, dramatic gateway through which to observe the encounter between civilisations from both sides.

Mitchell’s writing is as clear and flowing as ever and the depiction of Japan feels very real indeed. De Zoet is a great character but, as the review indicates, is more than balanced by the representation Miss Aibagawa. The first half of the book is slow paced but then things really do pick up. A hugely impressive piece of work and highly recommended.








%d bloggers like this: