Following a Cloud Atlas Across Time and Space

Let me start by saying that trying to finish a 509 page novel while on vacation with a four and a half year old who seems to need less sleep than I do was quite a challenge. I did a little victory dance when she fell asleep tonight and I was still awake to sneak out of the bedroom, pour a glass of Pinot Grigio, and finally finish the last 30 pages and write this entry. I still have about an hour of The Road to listen to, too, but this is not a book you can listen to with a little kid around, so that review will probably be on Sunday when I finally have a spouse to help with her again.

So, Cloud Atlas. This book went almost everywhere and anywhen, if I can invent a term. It begins in the South Pacific (man, wish I’d known about this when I was searching for Oceania options!), moves to Belgium, then to California, then to the UK, then to Korea, and then to Hawaii (and back). I’m arbitrarily assigning it to Korea, since it helps with my 6/6/6 challenge that way. What might be six different novels are craftily blended into a whole which works and amazes. Below find my Goodreads review, which gives you samples from different parts of the book to start.

  • Orange July 1 2 3
  • Around the World: Africa: 1, 2 Asia 1 South America 1 2 3 4 5 6 Other countries 1 2 3 4
  • 1001 Books 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Nobel: July Aug Sept
  • Pulitzer: July Aug Sept
  • Great African Reads: July Aug Sept

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I come to my journal as a Catholick to a confessor. My bruises insist these extraordinary past five hours were not a sickbed vision conjured by my Ailment, but real events. I shall describe what befell me this day, steering as close to the facts as is possible.

When one unlocks a woman’s body, her box of confidences also spills. (You should try ’em yourself one time, women I mean). Might this be connected to their hopelessness at cards?

At Buenas Yerbas International Airport, Rufus Sixsmith places a vanilla binder into locker number 909, glances around the crowded concourse, feeds the slot with coins, turns the key, and slips this into a padded khaki envelope addressed to Luisa Rey at Spyglass, Klugh Bldg. 12F, 3rd Avenue, BY.

Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.

An ascending fabricant absorbs language, thirstily, in spite of amnesiads. During my ascension, I was often shocked to hear new words fly from by own mouth, gleaned from consumers, Seer Rhee, AdV, and Papa Song himself. A dinery is not a hermetic world: every prison has jailers and walls. Jailers are ducts and walls conduct.

I und’standed why Meronym’d not said the hole-true ’bout Prescience Isle an’ her tribe too. People b’lief the world is built so an’ tellin ’em it ain’t so caves the roofs on their heads’n’maybe yours.

It is hard to know quite where to start in talking about Cloud Atlas. Various folks have been recommending this to me for a year or so, and I finally got my hands on a copy. It was a fascinating read, a ride atop a cascading wave that bounced through a terraced rapids of genres, flattened out, then reversed through the genres again at the next set of rapids. David Mitchell switches genres flawlessly, crafting narrators with delicious voices that stayed with me when I had to take a break from reading. And he manages to engage with big picture questions about the nature of civilization, the relationship of behavior to belief, and the immortality of the soul, creating a unified journey from what initially seem to be disparate pieces. The novel manages, by turns, to be hilarious, suspenseful, poignant, and thought-provoking. It was a deeply satisfying experience, and I recommend it highly.

View all my reviews

About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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