Dutch life is confined to the small artificial
in the harbour. All communication and trade with the Japanese goes through the heavily guarded land gate. island of Dejima is still intent on minimizing European contacts and influences. Japan
Despite Japanese determination to preserve its isolation the discoveries of European science are filtering into nation. Japanese scholars are eager to learn. New knowledge is dispelling and disproving long held traditions and superstitions.
The book is a fascinating portrayal of the interaction between the Dutch and Japanese on a personal scale in this confined setting.
The lonely de Zoet, while never forgetting the lovely Anna back in the
, seeks a relationship with Orito. A well born woman disfigured by a severe burn she is a midwife and has managed to get the chance to gain medical knowledge from the crusty Dr. Marinus. A fragile contact is built. Netherlands
De Zoet and Orito have modest lives. Their efforts to live with integrity find little favour in either society. Their choices are sharply circumscribed by each culture. Around them intrigues swirl and business transactions are negotiated. Each suffers for their stubborn honesty.
Orito is taken away to a monastery. De Zoet seeks to help her. The book does not unfold like a
As each adapts to life without the other international politics complicate life in
. There is a breath taking confrontation involving de Zoet whose powerful images will long be remembered by readers. Nagasaki
Early in the book I found myself comparing the story with Shogun by James Clavell in which shipwrecked English sailor, John Blackthorne, two centuries earlier is drawn into the plots and schemes of aristocratic
. De Zoet is involved with far lower ranking Japanese. Initially, I found myself missing the grand adventures experienced by Blackthorne. As the book went I found myself captured by the challenges of the characters. While I loved the epic sweep of Shogun there are compelling personal stories in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. By the end I was enjoying the book as much as Shogun. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is deserving of its acclaim. (Aug. 4/11) Japan