The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
is so unbelievably good that as soon as I started reading it, I grew anxious about how to convey its brilliance without resorting to overused words like, well, "brilliance." I'll do my best to produce a discerning review, but all I really want to say is: for the love of story, read this book!
This is one of those books whose subject matter is irrelevant, because it is so engrossing and self-sufficient that it submerses you in itself, no context or justification needed. Mitchell has resurrected a finely observed world of perfect details matched with bold, sweeping action. It is that rare thing, a deeply serious adventure novel. Mitchell earned my fealty right away, and I gave myself over to the intricate tale of Dutch-Japanese trade relations at the turn of the nineteenth century for the sheer pleasure of his...
Beyond the Book
There are two nations with two utterly incommensurate notions of power at loggerheads with each other in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
On the one hand, the Netherlands is represented by the Dutch East Indies Company
(Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie
or VOC in Dutch), a government-chartered company founded in 1602 to monopolize the Netherlands' trading in Asia. A chartered company allowed its shareholders to pool capital and dilute risk in order to embark on farflung missions. The VOC was the world's first multinational corporation and the first company to issue stock. Its rights far exceeded those of today's multinationals, because it was allowed to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies. The VOC, in other words, was...