Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

In 1799, a young accounting clerk disembarks at Nagasaki to begin a five-year stint for the Dutch East Indies Company. The trading company's warehouses and crew quarters are on Dejima, a small island connected to the city by a short bridge. Japanese guards are posted at the gates to Dejima and access is strictly controlled in both directions. It is an era when Japan was still tightly closed against foreigners.

Jacob's job is to untangle ledgers that hide evidence of corruption in the highest levels of the company ranks on Dejima. This does not make him popular, to put it mildly. Life for Jacob soon becomes even more difficult as dramatic events unfold. It's a good thing that he has a strong moral conscience and stout courage. It is his heart that is Jacob's greatest challenge; he falls in love with a Japanese woman who studies medicine on Dejima.

The intricate cast of characters, the fascinating setting, the complex plot that includes evil practices at a secretive Japanese shrine -- all of these combine in a fabulous story. A very rewarding read.

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