Saturday, 20 June 2009

Review of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas

As a writer, I enjoyed the narrative complexity of this novel: each of the six stories were compelling, and the links between them successfully bound them all together. The structure was interesting, with half of each narrative being told in chronological order up until the central chapter, Sloosha's Crossin', and then in reverse order in the second half of the book. My one grievance with this structure was that it took me a few pages to settle into the very different genre's during the first half, and in the second half, I kept having to flick back to the beginning chapters to remind myself what had happened previously (but that's probably just my poor memory).

Even though the second half of each of the stories (except for Letters from Zedelghem) ended on an upbeat, I was left feeling quite disheartened by the overall message, for the reader knows what the characters do not, that history is unfolding in ever more sinister ways and that Adam Ewing's fervent hope that 'humanity may transcend tooth & claw' is not to be. This is a depressing (though realistic) thought. I did, however, take hope from Robert Frobisher's final musings that the world goes in cycles and that 'We do not stay dead long....In thirteen years from now, we'll meet again at Gresham, ten years later I'll be back in this same room...composing this same letter...Such elegant certainties comfort me.' And even though I don't believe in reincarnation, they comfort me too. Otherwise, the future that Mitchell presents would be very depressing indeed.

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