I can’t believe I finally finished this book! I bought Cloud Atlas almost exactly a year ago, and planned to read it before a signing for David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks last September. And then I never got to it. It’s been sitting on the windowsill by my bed for a year, mocking me. But for some reason, I never felt like diving into this book. A few days ago, I picked it up, and was finally able to get into it.
Cloud Atlas is essentially six novellas that intertwine over the course of the book. It begins in 1850, with the story of Adam Ewing, an American notary on a voyage back home to California. He’s stuck on a ship with a bunch of rough and tumble sailors, a stowaway slave, and one Dr. Goose, who is treating the brain paradise Ewing has acquired. The story then jumps to 1931, and the letters of composer Robert Frobisher. He’s destitute and disowned, but eventually finds work in Belgium as a transcriptionist for a famous composer who can no longer write. The story jumps to 1970s California, where young reporter Luisa Rey is trying to uncover the truth about a nuclear power plant off the coast. Soon, she finds herself tangled up in a web of corporate intrigue and murder. In present day England, publisher Timothy Cavendish is thrust into the spotlight when one of his mediocre writers becomes a murderer. Threatened by the imprisoned author’s unsavory brothers, Timothy seeks a place to lay low. His brother sends him to Aurora House in Northern England, which much to Timothy’s dismay, turns out to not be a hotel. From there, the story travels to a Korean superstate in the near future, where government has become a corpocracy supported by manufactured humanoid slaves. Finally, the story lands in a postapocolyptic Iron Age Hawaii, where a boy must learn to survive after his father is killed and his brother enslaved. The book then travels back through time to it’s starting point, revisiting each story, and connecting them all in interesting ways.
To honest, I was completely prepared not to like Cloud Atlas. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t go into it in the best mindset. But I was pleasantly surprised. There is a reason this book is so famous – it’s brilliant. I was really impressed by how seamlessly the story transitions through so many genres and formats – a journal, a series of letters, an interview, a manuscript. I did find myself getting a teensy bit bored towards the end, and there was one story I didn’t particularly enjoy. But overall, I really liked this book!
You can purchase Cloud Atlas, and all of David Mitchell’s other books here.