Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Posted 11 April, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments

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Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Published: 2004  Pages: 508
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

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

21 Responses to “Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell”

  1. Hmmm I’ve only read one by this author and wasn’t overly impressed, so I haven’t pursued any others. I have read rave reviews of this one and the first have of the book does sound very intriguing, but the second half doesn’t sound promising. Hmmm

  2. I didn’t know there was a readalong going on for this one. I’ve been trying to read it for a year now and haven’t gotten through it. I heard they were making it into a movie, but I haven’t checked up on it to see when…

  3. Definitely NOT a book to read if you are trying to get through for a deadline?! I got the hang of the Sloosha section and once I could quickly ‘know’ the language idioms, I enjoyed it. I knew, though, by the end of Somni, it wasn’t going to be a 5 star read. But I did enjoy it, I enjoyed reading it with you all, and it was an amazing piece of work on a literary sense. I think it will be one of those ‘status’ books you can say, ‘Yea, I read it.” and maybe impress or bore people at a party.

    Are you actively reading through the 1001 books? I am always happy when I find out a book is on that list but I don’t go out of my way to read them…

  4. oh, was going to suggest that if it ever could be possible, we should meet on the beaches of Hawaii, hang out with the surfer dudes and THEN re-read this book. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  5. Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t love it! I think it’s genius and I’m sure it’ll be a classic. I love the different stories and the connections and what the stories say about the world and our society. I hear there’s a movie coming, that should be interesting!

  6. *Thoughts of Joy – I’m going to say that if you weren’t impressed by your other read by Mitchell, skip this one, too. It was intriguing but just didn’t follow-through (for me).

    *reviewsbylola – I know what you mean by feeling like you should read this one but not sure why. I had that same feeling going in. Hope when you do get to it you like it!

    *Judith / Leeswammes – It was interesting to talk to some of the other participants who really liked the futuristic/dystopian parts of the book. Those were the most difficult for me! Glad you enjoyed it!!

    *Teresa – I think the readalong might have been announced around the time your little babe arrived. I’ve also heard about the movie–has a pretty stout cast! But I just can’t imagine it on film.

    *Care – I eventually got the hang of Sloosha as well but it was a struggle! And like you I also knew after Somni’s ending that this wasn’t going to have the big AHA like I hoped it would. Think Frobisher was my favorite section–or Louisa Rey. I’m not actively reading the 1001 books but do keep my eye on the list (which is outdated but I don’t care). And YES to Hawaii!!!!!! :)

    *joanna – I can see the brilliance in the book but was expecting a bigger punch, I guess. I’m really sad because I have heard such raves for this one. Looks like Tom Hanks will play Adam Ewing in the movie!

  7. The Sloosha section was incredibly hard and I never got to the point where I enjoyed it. I did enjoy most of the other sections, but I agree with you, it’s a hard book to read! It was probably the most unique structure I’ve ever come across in a novel before. I’m so glad you joined the read-along even if you didn’t love the book.

  8. I’ve been avoiding Cloud Atlas forever. Guess I’ll keep it that way for now. The Buddha in the Attic was a book that everyone seemed to love, but fell flat for me… very disappointing.

  9. Apple green. And purple. I’ll read this, eventually. I think I know too much about it, already, so I decided I’d better skip your review.

    I also like red. :)

  10. I only made it through the first chapter of this one and had to put it down. It seemed that whenever I picked it up to read, my eyes would glaze over and I’d only make it a few pages. Pity, since the first chapter is only 30-some pages! I was hoping to really like it, but it just wasn’t for me. Glad to see I’m not the only one! Kudos to you for finishing. :)

  11. *Bermuda – It wasn’t a hard book but it did take work (if that makes sense)

    *Melissa – Thank you so much for hosting the readalong! I’m glad to have read the book and really liked so much about it…just left me wanting something more. I’ll be interested in the movie! Can’t imagine how they’ll pull off all the layers.

    *JoAnn – I just read another rave review for Buddha in the Attic and thought about your lukewarm review. It’s always a little sad when you read a book that everyone seems to love and you just don’t…

    *Bookfool – Apple green, purple, and red are all very happy colors. ;) And I totally understand–I like knowing very very little before reading a book!

    *Kristilyn – I do have to say that the first chapter (and the last because of the way the book is structured) is Awful!! Once I got passed it I was able to move much more quickly but I can’t understand why Mitchell would begin and end on such tedious notes!

  12. I think the color that makes me happiest is pink. I do have three girls afterall. I think I would like to read this knowing nothing about it, so I am moving right along….

  13. Did someone mention Hawaii?? You gotta go in December when the pro surf competitions are happening, brah.

    Did you really like Adam Ewing? Really??

    Also…for the record…green.

  14. The one book that comes to mind is Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. I despised that book so much that it made me stop buying new books. Seriously…now it’s or the library. Second hand stores too, but I have to be really serious to buy a new book.

    Kudos for sticking with this one, because you know me, I drop books I don’t like, like a bad habit :)

  15. The Lantern was the last book that I can think of that just didn’t live up to my expectations. I hate when that happens! I’m not sure if this one is for me or not but I’m definitely not going to rush out and grab it.

  16. The Sloosha part was very hard, and although I loved the book overall, I can’t shake the feeling that I missed something as I barely understood what was going on in that middle story…!

  17. *Michelle – I ADORE pink. :) And yes, I do think that this one is most interesting when you don’t know anything about it at all.

    *softdrink – Wait–did I mention liking Adam Ewing? Yuck! And Green is nice. Like a nice kelly green?

    *Jenny Girl – Oh man! Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell is a LONG book, too! I have it on my shelf but the time commitment is too much for me these days. And I think it’s great to be able to abandon books! (though I struggle with it…)

    *samantha.1020 – Oh I remember when everyone was raving about The Lantern! I still have no idea what it’s about but I’m planning on letting some of the hype die down. Sorry you didn’t like it!

    *Larissa – Sloosha was tough! I really wish we had read that during the first half of the readalong–might have made the second half seem a bit easier! And know what you mean about feeling like you might have missed something.

  18. Hey, I thought I’d take part in your literary blog hop. :) thanks for the giveaway.
    Hmm, from your list, I’ve read thirteen reasons why and I loved it! It was one of those books that I never really forget about.

    Elif –