Cloud Atlas Sextet: Music to be Read

November 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I haven’t seen the movie version of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, but he gave the film makers a vote of confidence (Translating ‘Cloud Atlas’ Into the Language of Film) recently, so it’s on my must see list.

Cloud Atlas has been out since 2004; so many of you will have read it. The purpose of this review is to urge the rest of you to do so.

It’s not an easy book, but don’t be put off. A little effort–and Mitchell doesn’t demand as much as many modern authors–will reward you with hours of pleasure.

What makes reading Cloud Atlas challenging is that Mitchell chronicles the lives of his characters in their own words and that he does so in six stories nested like a Russian matryoshka doll. The stories are also nested in time, moving from the early 19th century through the Pacific journal of an American notary, Adam Ewing, through the correspondence of Robert Frobisher, an Englishman whose legacy is the Cloud Atlas Sextet and who read Ewing’s Journal, through the muckracking journalism of Luisa Rey whose main source is Frobisher’s correspondent, through the ordeal of her British publisher Timothy Cavendish, into the future with the “orison” of Sonmi-451–a clone living in the 21st century equivalent of a Brave New World and Zachry the Brave, a young survivor on post-cataclysmic Hawaii.

Sounds confusing, but does it ever work! Don’t put off reading Cloud Atlas before or after you see the movie.

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