The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
I'm a fan of Mitchell's books so had to give this one a go. It took a while to get into - it's not an easy read and it is full of words - but what a brilliant novel this is! The man is an amazing writer. Like Cloud Atlas, this book has left me with the feeling that I've never read anything like it before.
It's set in Japan around the year 1800. At that time Japan was a closed nation, allowing no Japanese to leave and no foreigners to visit, though it had a limited trade agreement with the Dutch East India company (VOC). Jacob de Zoet is a young clerk for the VOC, posted to Dejima, the man-made island off Nagasaki where the VOC are permitted to trade. Corruption is rife, politics and diplomacy within the company and with the Japanese are delicate and tricky. De Zoet meets a young Japanese midwife who has facial scars, and falls in love. But she is forced to join a shrine where sinister and immoral activities take place. De Zoet needs to rescue her. When the VOC goes bust the Dutch are stranded in Dejima until a British warship comes... but there is so much plot I can't tell it all and wouldn't want to give it away.
The book is written in third person present tense which is not a favourite of mine. But the language is amazing, the characters are intriguing and fully alive, and the plot is so unusual and as I said, like nothing I've ever read before. If you like meaty historical novels this one is for you.