The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. Made me laugh. Made me cry. Had me utterly involved over the course of reading it. Didn’t want to leave the world and these characters. A smashing historical novel. Perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you want a little more than that? All right, all right.
The book opens, not on the main character, but with a midwife attending a complicated birth. Then, in 1799 by the Western calendar, a young Dutch clerk named Jacob de Zoet goes to Dejima, the trade outpost of the Dutch on the coast of Japan. He’s there along with his patron to uncover just how corrupt the former Dutch representatives were. After a chance meeting with a woman over a monkey that’s absconded with a severed human foot, things get really complicated. And that’s just in section one, before things go really crazy in section two. This book has history, trade, Japan, interpreters, romance, evil kidnappers, and dozens of characters, many of whom get to narrate. Deeply satisfying, and highly recommended.