by David Mitchell, 2004
This is a guest book review from Maria:
Last week was my spring break, and I had committed to reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (recommended and borrowed from a friend) during the break. Eric and I had tried to watch the movie several months ago, but like some other discs from the library we’ve encountered, it was unfortunately too scratched up to watch. We had some glimpses of characters and pieces of the music, but no idea what was happening.
I read the book almost straight through in about 10 hours. It’s a thick book and I read pretty quickly, but I literally could not put it down. I even read it while making and eating lunch (which I almost forgot to eat because I was simply in another world within the book). It was incredibly engrossing. I had to know where it was leading and what would happen next.
The story follows multiple incarnations of the same character across the span of time. Each story is somehow connected to the next story in line, and by extension all the stories following it. The book is built up like a bunch of open parentheses followed, eventually, by each mated pair. It was both fun and excruciating to read like that, because cliffhangers are great literary tools but all I want to get to is the resolution. (Also, I am a computer scientist and open parentheses make me uncomfortable when I don’t see the closing one.) The stories themselves are all really interesting and set both in the past and the future. Reading some of the dialect is difficult but doable once you get a few pages in. There are some overarching themes (anti-slavery/freedom, knowledge, time/history repeating itself, reincarnation). The book itself also references other pieces the author has written (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Atlas_%28novel%29#Structure_and_style), which is neat and totally something I would do if I wrote novels.
I think it would be harder to watch the movie and almost impossible to listen to this on CD. I needed to reference the end of the first half of each story to remember what exactly had been happening when it left off to go into the next story (even though I had read that story just a few hours prior). I would recommend checking out the Cloud Atlas Sextet that was written for the movie, though.
It’s beautiful music.
I recommend reading Cloud Atlas, especially if you have some time to devote to it.