Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Published: 2004 Pages: 508
Genre: Literary Fiction
In Short: Maybe I should tell you guys what I knew about the book going into it: Nothing. :) You love me.
Why I Read Cloud Atlas: I picked this book up a few years ago at Half Price Books. I don’t remember why but I was looking for it specifically. Maybe it’s on the 1001 Books You Must Read list (yup, it is)? Or maybe someone raved about it? Anyway, I read it because Melissa and Care were doing a readalong and figured I might not read it otherwise.
Thoughts in General: When I told you above that I knew nothing about this book before starting it, that isn’t an exaggeration. I kind of like going into books that way, but it makes writing down my thoughts on books difficult because I don’t want to give away more than I need to and with this book I think that’s impossible. So, if you don’t want to know very much about this book, just move along and tell me what color makes you happiest if you feel compelled to leave a comment. ;)
Cloud Atlas comprises of six different stories set in wildly different time periods, locations, and circumstances. Some of the sections are narrated in epistolary format, some through interviews, some first and third person. And while each story nestles in some way into the next, the relationship between each is rather mysterious. Thus, the first half of the book was incredibly intriguing. The second half, however, did absolutely nothing for me and I got to the point where I simply did not care and could have set down the book without finishing and without batting an eye. Cringe.
The Good: David Mitchell flexes his literary muscles in the writing of Cloud Atlas. Each section is written in such a completely different style from the previous one and it worked. His language was authentic, his styles were convincing, and for such short periods of time spent on each character I thought that the stories and characters were all very well-drawn. The writing was lyrical and descriptive and sweeping–this book has all the makings to become one of my favorites.
Perhaps my downfall was the very middle of the book and the most difficult section. I’ve heard many people mention that they are intimidated by this book because they’ve heard it’s hard (yes, I was one of those folks), but I don’t think this book is necessarily difficult with the exception of that one chapter. Part of me wonders if we had completed the middle section during the first half of the readalong if I would have had a better feeling towards this book by the end, but I struggled and struggled and took about a week to read “Sloosha.” After that I had forgotten a lot of what I had already read and then I started to worry that things would not come together as I had hoped and then…
Bottom Line: I’m eager to hop around to the other posts of the Cloud Altas Readalong to see where the other participants landed with their final thoughts. The last two pages held a lot of great meat, but that meat would have been much more satisfying had it come earlier in the book. I wish I liked this one better but I just can’t get over the overwhelming feeling of “what is the point.” I did get the point of the book and maybe it’s one that I’ll re-read again and appreciate more? But in the end it wasn’t what I was hoping for. Good news for you is that I’m pretty sure that I’m in the minority.
What’s a book you read that you had such high hopes for but ended up falling flat?
On the Blog:
One Year Ago – Sunday Salon 42: Readathon End of Event
Two Years Ago – Classics and Non-Fiction Five Challenges
Three Years Ago – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Four Years Ago – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah