Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas
By David Mitchell 

Around 4 years ago, while I was studying A-Level English Literature, my teacher recommended Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell to the class. I dutifully wrote it down, but assumed it was a stuffy old novel, which didn’t interest me as I was going through a phase of reading strange, experimental modern literature. 

Then one day, I spotted it in a charity shop for the modest sum of £1.50, and before I knew it I had bought it, read it, and was left reeling. In under 550 pages, I had read the stories of a 19th century voyager, a starving artist in the 1930s, a Californian female journalist in the 70s, an ageing English publisher, a dystopian clone, and a post-apocalyptic tribesman.

I was completely astonished by everything about it: the characters, the plot, especially the structure. The six stories appear completely unrelated at first, but reveal their subtle, charming similarities as the novel jumps between the distant past and the barely imagined future. After finishing it I knew I had to read Mitchell’s other novels (and, interestingly, found them all in charity shops) and discovered that his themes and characters even run from one novel to another. 

While reading Cloud Atlas I sat aghast, jaw hanging open, I came close to tears, and I laughed out loud. 

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