Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

Cloud Atlas

Read June 2015
Recommended for ??
 ★    ★    ★   

Tuesday, 16th June–

I come to my journal as a Catholick to a confessor.” The ache in my head was too grievous to ignore & proves that this experience though conjured by Literature enacted themselves upon me as real events. “I shall describe what befell me this day, steering as close to the facts as possible.” I attempted such and began to Read, hoping that the cleverness contained in these Words might bestow comprehension & enlightenment upon me, but Alas! As I endeavored to comprehend, my eyelids were like a heavy burden & scraped against the eggshell skin of my eyeballs & instead I emerged into the heavy sleep of the savage neath the heavenly eye of the sky.



It was with pleasure I began the section set in Zedelghem. The writer erudite, v. passionate about music. Composing for a symphony evoked phrases that sang. Penniless, on the run from creditors, R.F. inserts himself into a syphilic-ridden composer’s household.

Now, pay attention while I talk books.” I suspect R.F. to be co-written by a critic; how else could one explain lines like, “Something shifty about the journal’s authenticity–seems to structured for a genuine diary, and its language doesn’t ring quite true–but who would bother forging such a journal and why?”

It is as if the writer is reading my mind. I tell you, this part was v.good. Am captivated by writer’s passion for his music, reminds me of a fair-haired muse from my years at the college–recommend you find a muse of your own.


Luisa Rey and Sixsmith are in a discussion about Hitchcock films. Again I think that Mitchell is staring as his own navel when Sixsmith says, “A contrived puzzle, yes, but all thrillers would wither without contrivance.


As an experienced editor, I disapprove of flashbacks, foreshadowings, and tricksy devices; they belong in the 1980s with M.A.s in postmodernism and chaos theory. I make no apology, however, for (re)starting my own narrative with my version of that shocking affair. You see, it paved my first good intention on the road to Hull, or rather Hull’s hinterland, where my ghastly ordeal is fated to unfold.

This is truly the current version of doctor Ewing, full of himself in every sense of the word and convinced of both his importance and with a general air of intolerance for the less enlightened around him, yet crippled by a streak of cowardice. Again with the naval-gazing, and let me not begin on the contrived disaster. I had no idea I was really reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.


A more metaphysical question… were you happy, back in those days?
As I was reading, you mean? “If, by happiness, you mean the absence of adversity,” well, yes, I was the happiest reader in the society as was insisted by all the reviews giving this book five stars. “However, if happiness means the conquest of adversity, or a sense of purpose, or the xercise of one’s will to power,” then I admit that I was enduring this read for the mild curiosity of the puzzle presented. But I did not realize I would be reading Brave New World. I gleaned, however, that my xperience would not be welcomed among the Souled.


This ain’t a smilesome yarnie, but you asked ’bout my life on Big Island, an’ these is the mem’ries what are minnowin’ out.

I memberin’ readin’ dialeck makin’ me annoyed, unless yr name b’un Alice Walker


I end, convinced that Mitchell is trying to be both the lecturer and Fool(critic) both writin’ and readin’ the work:

Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a ‘sextext for overlapping soloists’… each in its own language of key, scale, and color. In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan’t know until it’s finished, and by then it’ll be too late.

I know which camp I fall into.

much, much obliged to Mimi for sharing a copy of the book with me.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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7 Responses to Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

  1. Occasionally, the movie IS better than the book. This seems to be one of those times.

  2. Mimi says:

    Hilariously awesome review! Sorry the book didn’t work for you. I thought it was a work of art when I finished it, but after discussing it with others who didn’t feel the same, I concede that it has its moments but is quite pretentious overall. The movie is probably better.

    • thebookgator says:

      Thank you, Mimi, and again, thank you for the book. It is on my shelves, potentially awaiting a re-read. I agree, it is a sort of work of art–my first thoughts on review was to compare each section to a classic work of literature and then imply that an English class would be best served by reading Cloud Atlas instead. But then I had inspiration for this style of review. Mitchell is certainly a talented writer–it reminds me of Colson Whitehead, who is also v. talented but similarly lacks a certain je nais se quoi of emotion in his works.

      • Mimi says:

        You bring up a good point, about talent and lack of emotion. It strikes me as though both Mitchell and Whitehead strive to be too literary that they come off as trying too hard. But that doesn’t diminish their works; it just makes it more obvious what they’re trying to do, which is bridging the “great divide” between literary and genre fiction. Much of the emotional impact that should have been in their writing gets lost in the process, I think.

  3. thebookgator says:

    Hm, that bears some thinking on. Maybe because there is so much going on with plot, style, and general introspection of the narrator that the emotion gets lost? I don’t read a ton of ‘literary’ fiction, but I’m thinking Alice Walker usually pulled me in, as well as Barbara Kingsolver.

  4. Pingback: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz | book reviews forevermore

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