16. The Book That Provoked The Most Thought

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Generally speaking, books that all the group liked or all the group hated do not generate a lot of discussion other than “I loved it when. . .” or “I hated that. . .”

We [the book group] loved Cloud Atlas, so the conversation pretty much petered out after we each declared which detail made us realize how different the plot was. That is, after the first novelette. This is the part in my review that I’d write a summary of the plot, but for this book it’s just too complicated. In a good way, I promise. I will say that David Mitchell’s major theme is, as Dame Shirley Bassey would sing, “It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”


As a group we agreed we liked certain passages much more than others. As I already wrote and it bears repeating: that opening novelette is ROUGH. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts. As an avid book reader, I was fascinated by the bridges David Mitchell constructed to the other narrative lines. And the amount of time the book spans is incredible. Especially considering the detailed characterizations. I, personally, was less impressed by the differing genres. The use of jargon got in the way for me a lot. Although the author’s language liberties were clever considering parts of the story are set hundreds of years in the future.

As someone interested in genealogy, I enjoyed finding the patterns in each of the characters. I really enjoyed seeing how certain details of the earlier characters are reflected in the later ones. I found myself trying to guess how they will show themselves about three paragraphs into a new novelette.

Mitchell’s book sticks out in my memory because I’ve absolutely never read a book like it. I’m told it was inspired by Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. I don’t know how true that is, yet. I’m going to find out.

UPDATE: I’m told the movie is hard to follow. The book is too at first; but if you stick with it, it pays off!


2 Replies to “16. The Book That Provoked The Most Thought”

  1. This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I was saving it for an upcoming plane ride. I quickly looked away once I saw the word “spoilers” but wanted to ask… Might you have watched LOST and do you think the two are slightly similar? I had recently Netflixed the entire series when I picked up Cloud Atlas at the bookstore because it’s similar description appealed to me. Maybe I should get to it before the plane 🙂

    1. I can see how the characters in Cloud Atlas could be compared to those in LOST. But the stories are very different. As long as you read that the very first chapter of the book is hard to get through, I highly recommend it, Single Strides! Thanks for the follow!

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