From the blurb on Amazon - "'One of the most brilliantly inventive writers of this, or any country' (Independent) turns his unique eye on the dark end of the 1960s in his enthralling new novel, a story of music, dreams, drugs and madness, love and grief, stardom's wobbly ladder and fame's Faustian pact."
In the beginning there is desperation, the searching for sustenance for the body and the soul. There are trials and tribulations, soaring ethereal moments of musical connection, personal growth, awakenings and chemical enhanced imaginings. All fairly standard fare for a band on the rise in the swinging sixties.
To write a novel about the sixties Mitchell will have been well aware there was a huge rabbit hole of cliches he could have fallen foul of. The conundrum, to write about a rock band in the sixties, to populate it with the people and the sounds and images of the day but without turning each page into a tabloid headline diatribe.
Of course, this is David Mitchell, he deftly swerves round the obvious cliches but still paints a picture of London midst the time changing, free thinking, coffee bar to cocaine years that you will believe in. Enough name dropping to satisfy without saturating and suffocating the stories of the main characters.
There is a slightly odd sub plot involving an ancient being inhabiting the mind of one of the band members. For this reader, this sub plot was superfluous, it detracted from the story, the musical journey of the band.
Another annoying thing about any book of fiction about creativity is that as the reader you want to hear the music or see the paintings etc being described. Utopia Avenue’s music is very much a part of this story and I really wanted an accompanying CD so I could listen to the songs.
But these small gripes aside, I loved spending time with this band, as a lifelong music lover who has absolutely no musical talent it was good to indulge in that age old pastime of pretending it was me in the band.
A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified ‘dinery server’ on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation – the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
I have just finished the first chapter, and was greatly irritated when it finished in the middle of a sentence.
As it is widely known that the first half of the book consists of the beginning of six stories that continue in reverse order in the second half, ending with the story it started with, I sneaked a look at the start of the last chapter. Yes, the sentence continues there. A quick glance at the next story revealed that the second section seems to be a continuation of the letters in the earlier part.
The Temptation is to read the whole of each story straight off, as though it was just a series of short stories, and not bother with the order in which it is laid out.
Before I give in to this temptation, can someone tell me that there is a point to this strange construction? Am I going to miss something vital if I don't resist?
At the moment I feel that D.M. just took half a dozen short manuscripts and
divided each roughly in half, put them in two piles, stacked one on top of each other and said 'There's a book to set reviewers talking!'
It is not that I have any particular problem with unusually constructed books (I enjoyed 'Time's Arrow'), but I need to believe there's a point to it, and that it's not just a shot at a 'literary' award.
I read CA a month ago and said then it needed another reading at least to get some of the nuances I missed the first time. Unfortunately for me, CA has come up too soon for me consider re-reading it, so I'll have to go with what I remember.
I don't recall every one of the six main characters having the same tattoo. I wasn't watching out for it, which is one of the reasons it needs at least one more read. Did I miss some? I thought one of the motifs running through the book was that the six all shared certain characteristics (and may even have been the same "soul").
I have just thrown the book across the room!
I was already annoyed by Tim Cavendish's train journey. First of all, getting 'past Saffron Walden' is a little disingenuous, implying as it does that the line runs somewhere near the town. It doesn't, it is nowhere near. Then Adelstrop? This may be my mistake, perhaps there is an Adlestrop on the way to Hull, but the only one I know is in Gloucestershire.
But , Aurora House I just couldn't stomach!!
I work in a Residential Care Home for the elderly, and train staff in various statutary subjects. Cavendish is subject to various types of abuse...all illegal. And restraint, also illegal. Threatened with the 'chemical cosh'...another form of abuse, illegal! This home cannot exist in this day and age, under the kind of inspection regime enforced by The Care Standards Agency. As this section of the book is supposedly set in roughly the present day, shouldn't the 'rest home' be a modern one, not a throw back to pre-war conditions?
And now the book is all battered and tatty from the force with which I hurled it against the door.