This is not my first Mitchell,, my first was 2006’s Black Swan Green, which I thought was very good. I was going through a tough time that year and thankfully it helped me forget my unemployment crisis. I hten moved on to his previous novel ‘Cloud Atlas’ but I admit it was a very superficial read as I did not feel like a heavy novel at the time.
Now that I had a second chance to analyse the novel deeply, I was able to understand the importance of the sixth part (more of that later) to the whole novel and obviously how intricately linked the remaining parts are.
With out going into heavy and confusing detail I will attempt to summarise the whole novel.
The book begins with Adam Ewing, an explorer who has been shipwrecked on the coast of New Zealand and discovers about the customs of the Moari and the sub tribe. Eventually one of the tribesmen hides himself on Ewing’s ship and helps him. You could say this is a tale focusing on racism. This is all recorded in Ewing’s Journal.
The Jouranl finds it’s way into the hands of bisexual Robert Forbisher, a character who is attempts to transcribe notes for a Belgian composer, while creating his own symphony called Cloud Atlas (a classical piece in six parts – get the connection). He corresponds with his gay lover Rufus Sixsmith.
These letters and the Cloud Atlas symphony find their way into the journalist Luisa Rey, who befriends Sixsmith (now an old man) and try expose a company that is polluting the air with radiation. This is clearly an eco mystery and my least favourite part of the book.
These adventures form part of a manuscript, which falls into the hands of a publishing head called Timothy Cavendish, who accidentally finds himself trapped in an old age homw, while trying to escape from his creditors. This would be the ‘comic relief’ bit of Cloud Atlas and my fave bit.
This saga is actually a film that an android called Somni 451, who is being persecuted for being too human.
The last part takes place in a post apocalyptic island, where a goat herder called Zachry discovers the importance of Somni and the mysterious comet shaped birthmark which is imprinted of every character in the book.
Needless to say that this is a breathtaking novel. Six different literary styles all mashed together makes compulsive reading and it’s probably the only novel that made me smile and tense within the space of half an hour. It is very readable as well so it won’t take too long to plough through. Dare I say that this is a future classic?
One last word. I don’t know if it is my impression but it sems that Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has seemed to affect the book world. Obviously literary techniques such as Mitchell’s and Bolano’s have been used before, but I feel it on a grander scale. Or is this part of the post modern era???