#297 ~ The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Published by: Random House

Published on: June 2010

Page Count: 496

Genre: Literature

My Reading Format: Audiobook rented from my local library

Narrators: Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox

Audiobook Length: 18 hours 54 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, audiobook, eBook

My Review

I loved and adored The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. This was another audiobook I rented from my local library. Despite how much I gushed my way through my first David Mitchell novel, I’m at a loss as to how to go about writing a review. There is so much that goes on and it’s all inner-related. Unlike most of my reads, I actually took a fair amount of notes and I even highlighted quotes (will explain below). You would think that this would make for a rather good start. Well, I’ve been sitting with these notes for ages. Nothing’s coming. So, I’ve decided I would just transpose my thoughts into a post of sorts:

  • The Dutch, be they characters or references are everywhere! I am in heaven. My favorite Dutch-specific quote comes from Jacob De Zoet:

Mercenaries are risky allies, as we Dutch know well.

Now I think I’m going to adopt the catch phrase “As we Dutch know well” for myself. It could literally go anywhere, but I’ve yet had the opportunity to use it. I cannot wait for it.

  • If I could give an Oscar for Best Supporting Character in a Book, it would go to Dr. Marinus. He is hilarious, a stand-up friend, and much more open-minded than he first appears. The first time he was introduced, I never in my life would have imagined the role he’d play in Miss Ibagowa’s life. He has made me laugh out loud more than any other character. My favorite quote from Dr. Marinus came after Fischer, an Eastern European who does whatever he can to diminish De Zoet, tells the story of his war experience.  It made me laugh Diet Coke out of my nose:

“The passage where you ate the maggots,” remarks Marinus, “rather over-egged the brûlée.”

There is one scene (which I will not divulge as it would be a spoiler) in which he made me so home sick for my best friends. It’s good to know that I have Dr. Marinus’ in my life. I just wish they weren’t so far away.

  • These villains are villainous! I can’t say that I love to hate them, because there is nothing lovable about them. What I loved was the way it all played out in the end.
  • Jonathan Aris is making listening to this audiobook that much more fun. The way he reads the asides and provides tone for the characters is outstanding. The English is very British and quite formal, but that doesn’t bother me. Others on Twitter have abandoned the audiobook in favor of reading it in print though.
  • David Mitchell’s writing is genius! I loved it so much that I purchased the Kindle edition so I could reread sections again as I went along. There is so much going on in this book. I’ll definitely need to reread it in the future.
  • Jacob De Zoet you will forever have a place in my heart.
  • It’s interesting to see a glimpse the end of two eras – the Japanese and the Dutch. The Japanese have tried their best to keep Europeans from impacting their culture. That’s nearly impossible to do. The Dutch empire is also waning. Jacob De Zoet’s time in Japan, where he was marooned in Japan for maintaining his integrity is symbolic of the end of Dutch imperialism.
  • Love, love, love how the story revealed the meaning of the novel’s title. Perhaps most people already knew that, but I didn’t. I don’t want to spoil it here for those who are like me. It was a moment I’ll never forget in the narrative.

I suppose that pretty much captures my thoughts and feelings about this wonderful novel.  I hope you take the opportunity to explore it for yourself.

Other Voices

You’ve read what I have to say.  Why not check out these bloggers’ reviews?

Fantasy Book Critic
Presenting Lenore
A Progressive on the Prarie
Farm Lane Books
The Book Catapult
Shelf Love
Novels Now
Bibliophile By the Sea


  • At 2010.12.10 11:31, Martha said:

    This book has been on my radar for a while but your fantastic review just moved it to the top of the list.

    • At 2010.12.10 11:59, Melissa said:

      Thank you for this wonderful review. This is on my shelf at home, but then I read a few mediocre reviews and was hesitant to dive in. Your descriptions make me think it’s definitely something I’d enjoy.

      • At 2010.12.10 12:43, Alyce said:

        This is one I might consider listening to on audiobook because I don’t know when I’ll find time to read it otherwise. Nice review!

        • At 2010.12.10 20:55, Rebecca Rasmussen said:

          This is a wonderful review — I have been meaning to buy this! xoxo

          • At 2010.12.11 23:42, Lisa said:

            One of the members of my book club recommended this book but I just wasn’t sure about it. Guess I might have to rethink that. Oh, never mind–I can never get them to read almost 500 pages!

            • At 2010.12.11 23:45, Jennifer said:

              As much as I love this book – and I do – it would take a special kind of book club to tackle this book.

              • At 2010.12.13 11:22, Fyrefly said:

                I loved Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green so much that I really want to read this one, but I’ll admit that I am a little bit intimidated by the length – especially on audio! I have so many chunksters already on my shelves that adding more seems a little terrifying.

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                • At 2010.12.28 17:04, #305 ~ The Typist : literatehousewife.com said:

                  […] me of two other books I enjoyed this year.  While I was reading this book, I started listening to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet. It was interesting to read these two books in conjunction as they show Japan in such a different […]

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                    • At 2011.03.17 06:06, Yvann said:

                      I know I’m very late to this party… but just wanted to say that I absolutely loved this book and totally agree with everything you said above. I read it rather than listening to it – I wonder how different our experiences were? The Millions put up a review (linked on my post) where the reviewer suggested that the book would make an excellent film – I am inclined to agree. What do you think?

                      • […] so when I had the opportunity to receive a review copy, I was thrilled. It won the Audie over The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, an audiobook I absolutely adored. I had to know why. The book began with an introduction to the […]

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