>> Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the best fiction I've read in years. A friend sent it to me about a month ago, and I've been slowly reading it, a few pages a night. Except for the nights I got really into it and couldn't put it down. I wanted to finish it as quickly as possible and savor it for as long as possible. It's not a perfect book, but it's a beautiful book with rich characters and unexpected plot twists.
The year was 1799, and a pious Dutch clerk finds himself on Dejima, an island-city near Nagasaki for foreigners run by the Dutch East India Company but overseen by Japanese. Though he doesn't know it, the Dutch Empire is waning, but de Zoet is determined to earn substantial-enough wages to return to his love, Anna, in Holland. Tasked with making sense of the disorderly and dishonest company books, de Zoet finds that honest accounting serves as only one of many challenges. The suite of characters he encounters on Dejima -- settled foreigners, suspicious Japanese interpreters, a wise doctor, clever cooks, and an alluring but scarred (literally) midwife -- open a multitude of tales: matching wits, cross-cultural clashes, adventure tales, forbidden romance, and more. I won't give the plot (or plots) away, since you should read it. I could (and will) read it again to enjoy the narrative and relish the beautiful prose.
* * *
September was a crazy month filled with travel and hectic working. I haven't sewn a thing in weeks, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the crafting groove. I ave several projects waiting to be finished and several more to start...