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David Mitchell

David Mitchell (1969- )
David Mitchell’s first novel, Ghostwritten, won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Number9dream, his second, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2003 he was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and his third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for 6 awards including the Man Booker Prize and won the British Book Awards Best Literary Fiction and the South Bank Show Literature Prize. He lives in Ireland with his wife and daughter.

Cloud Atlas: A treasure

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

For some people, awards are guides as to which books to read, but for others they can serve as a warning that the novels are “too literary,” all art and artifice and no story. It’s easy to see how some might think that of Cloud Atlas. Nominated for several awards, including the heavyweight Booker prize, written by an author — David Mitchell — known for his surreal “literariness,” and constructed in a non-linear fashion, Cloud Atlas runs the risk of being ruled out at the outset by many. That would be too bad, however, for the book is utterly brilliant, one of my favorite reads of the past decade and a perfect example of how craft and storytelling are not mutually exclusive.

The structure, as mentioned, is unusual, taking the form of six stories linked mostly if not solely by theme and told in chronological order. That i... Read More

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: Curse you, David Mitchell!

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Let’s just admit it at the outset. As someone who tries to write, I hate David Mitchell. Hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand blazing suns. It’d be bad enough if he were just a great, you know, writer. Plain old everyday writer of some kind of novel: literary fiction, sci-fi, adventure, pastiche, historical. But no. He can’t just pick one. He has to be brilliant at them all. In one novel, no less (Cloud Atlas, by the way, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Then fire off an angry letter to any award group that didn’t give him their top prize for it. Yeah — I’m talking to you Booker). Worse, Cloud Atlas wasn’t his first brilliant book. And then he followed it up with Black Swan Green. And now he’s back with The Thousand ... Read More

The Bone Clocks: One of my favorite reads this year

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Fans of David Mitchell (of which I am definitely one) will feel right at home with his newest work, The Bone Clocks. You’ve got your chameleon-like ability to shift voice across a wide variety of genders and ages via multiple POVs, your richly vivid characterization, the literary and at times lyrical passages of internal monologue or description, spot-on dialog, an interconnected-story structure that spans time and space, the erudite use of history, and imaginative yet grittily real extrapolations of future settings and language. Weaving in and out of all this are familiar themes involving reincarnation, mortality, the predatory nature of humanity against both itself and the environment, and the idea of interconnectedness, the latter made more overt via the added pleasure for Mitchell fans of the many references to characters from earlier Mitchell books. Throw in some paranormal event... Read More

Slade House: Come on in!

Slade House by David Mitchell

I may have to give up my long-held identity as someone who doesn’t enjoy reading horror, because I have really enjoyed some horror novels lately. David Mitchell’s latest, Slade House, is a sort of haunted house-slash-mystery story told over several decades, in several different voices, and it was delightful.

The book begins with a young boy, Nathan, who visits a house down narrow, twisting Slade Alley with his mother. The gate is set in the wall of the alley, and when he enters, he has the sense of entering a lovely, secret paradise of a place. He and his mother are fed and he meets another child, Jonah, a playmate and new friend for him. Their game of Fox and Hounds turns bizarre and unreal, but Nathan's mother dismisses it as his imagination. She sends him up a set of stairs, into an attic room,... Read More

Utopia Avenue: Playing in the band

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

If you’re a fan of David Mitchell (I am) and think five years is way too long to go without a Mitchell novel (I do), you’ll probably eat up his latest, Utopia Avenue (I scarfed it down in two sittings). If you love music (yep) and are particularly a fan of the incredibly fertile 1960s music scene in both England and America (check), you’ll almost certainly absolutely revel in the novel (revelry was had). If you enjoy vivid characterization, crisp natural-sounding dialogue, multiple character POVs that sound utterly distinctive, and master craftsperson use of language via word choice, syntax, allusion, etc., (yes, yes, yes, and yes), then your readerly love of great writing will most likely be fully sated (it was). Utopia Avenue (2020) isn’t my favorite or most admir... Read More

More books by David Mitchell

book review David Mitchell GhostwrittenGhostwritten — (1999) Publisher: David Mitchell’s electrifying debut novel takes readers on a mesmerizing trek across a world of human experience through a series of ingeniously linked narratives. Oblivious to the bizarre ways in which their lives intersect, nine characters-a terrorist in Okinawa, a record-shop clerk in Tokyo, a money-laundering British financier in Hong Kong, an old woman running a tea shack in China, a transmigrating “noncorpum” entity seeking a human host in Mongolia, a gallery-attendant-cum-art-thief in Petersburg, a drummer in London, a female physicist in Ireland, and a radio deejay in New York-hurtle toward a shared destiny of astonishing impact. Like the book’s one non-human narrator, Mitchell latches onto his host characters and invades their lives with parasitic precision, making Ghostwritten a sprawling and brilliant literary relief map of the modern world.

book review David Mitchell Number9dreamNumber9dream — (2001) Publisher: Eiji Miyake arrives in a sprawling Japanese metropolis to track down the father he has never met. But the city is a mapless place if you are 18, broke, and the only person you can trust is John Lennon. His 8-week hunt plunges into the hinterland between the city and the mind, where a Polish art movie is no less real than the coffee in front of him and letters from an Imperial Army soldier are signposts to next week, and where he crosses paths with numerologists, staion masters, gateballers, hostesses, organ harvesters and insane chefs. Philosophical, colourful, sometimes violent, this is a dazzlingly inventive novel about image, control and memory.

book review David Mitchell Black Swan GreenBlack Swan Green — (2006) Publisher: From highly acclaimed two-time Man Booker finalist David Mitchell comes a glorious, sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new. In his previous novels, David Mitchell dazzled us with his narrative scope and his virtuosic command of multiple voices and stories. The New York Times Book Review said, “Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across [Cloud Atlas’s] every page.” Black Swan Green inverts the telescopic vision of Cloud Atlas to track a single year in what is, for 13-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the 13 chapters create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. Pointed, funny, profound, left field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest yet most accessible achievement to date.