“Cloud Atlas” is written by David Mitchell.

I sat there, after seeing the movie, thinking “I missed something.”, so I figured I better go and read the book.

So. The book.

The book is structurally beautiful – 5 stories are told half-way in historical chronology, a sixth story completes and then the 5 stories are completed in reverse historical chronology, so it ends with the first story. I kept think “like a rose unfolding”, but is actually more like a multi-layer sandwich.

Mitchell is obviously very talented and has an ease with language – this books encompasses 6 different genres, 6 different types of writing, 4 different historical periods, 2 imagined historical periods and many, many different characters’ voices.

I enjoyed all 6 of the stories and the connections between them are interesting and the break-up of each narrative make more sense in the book when compared to the film. It also works as a book, as most of the characters are reading to find out about the story and character in the previous story.

Look, I have to question the excerpts of reviews from the likes of The New York Times and the Guardian UK, I can’t believe that they have never read something like this book before, where things and people interconnect and where an author offers up so much in a novel.

Mitchell doesn’t challenge or inspire, he entertains and entertains masterfully. His structure and words are beautiful, yet he doesn’t offer any new insights in the human condition or reveal any new truths. It is a beautiful experience, but there are moments while reading that I could only think that he was trading style over substance. I get the feeling that the reviewers may have been distracted by the beauty of the structure and the narratives of each story that they assumed that they were treated to something deep and meaningful.

I don’t know, maybe I read too much philosophy to really appreciate this book or maybe I’m just looking for something more challenging.

The book put some of my issues with the film to rest – the motifs don’t carry through all the stories, the theme of reincarnation is only suggested once, and the book suggests more about interconnectedness – the failings of the film aren’t the film’s, they are from the book!

So, yeah, this book is 6 really fun reads, but as a unit this book is decidedly lacking.

At least now I know.

 

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