This post is so long overdue that I can't even. If you remember, me and Jan read this book almost at the same time, and he has already posted a guest review on it, which can be found here.
I just wrote somewhere yesterday that I don't think there are many perfect books in the world, but I think this one is pretty perfect - for me. I loved Cloud Atlas to pieces, but in many ways The Thousand Autumns is a more whole book, a story that is better grasped, more round overall. There are no funny timeline constructions here, it flows more naturally, it feels... oriental, a bit zen-like, if you know what I mean. Which is, of course, totally apt, since the story is set in Japan. I mean don't get me wrong - there is so much tension at times it feels like it would easily crush a bug, but it is not obvious, simple or over-done - it's just really well done.
I will not even try to write something coherent because one thing, several months has passed since I finished this one and secondly, it's like trying to analyse the best cone of blueberry ice cream you ever had. You look at it lovingly, tasting now and then, sigh happily, but trying to put into words what exactly makes this blueberry ice cream better than the next one feels like it would take away from the experience.
I will say it though, just like with Cloud Atlas, it might be a bit of a struggle to get into this book at first. It starts very, very slowly and the build-up is quite long. I remember I was even disappointed at first and complained quite a lot and asked Jan "when is it getting good", but was I rewarded in the end. At some point I discovered I don't want to stop reading. Again, this is the book from where you can learn so much - about the Dutch East India Company in Japan in 1800s, and through that about the Japanese - their integrity and at the same time, if you are not one of them, no matter what, you will never be. The ending is so good, there is a certain passage towards the end that when I read it I almost wept because it was just so. beautiful.
When I look at my Goodreads page, I see only one person who has read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and that is Jan. I know Cloud Atlas is a divisive book and probably discouraged many to read anything else by David Mitchell, but I think in many ways this is, if not better, a more accessible book. Mitchell is one of my favourite authors for sure, the guy has some mad writing skill, and I can't wait to read everything he has written so far.