A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.

I’ve had several people over the last few years tell me that I really must read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, so I thought I would follow their advice and see what all the fuss was about.

The first thing to say is that this is a big book – not just in terms of number of pages, but also in terms of its scope and breadth of genres. The novel has a very ambitious structure: it comprises six separate stories, with each one being split in half and nested within the others, rather like the way Russian dolls are nested within one another. Plus each story is set in a different time-frame, with its own set of characters and unique narrative style. So we end up reading in the one book, a mid-nineteenth century sea voyage,  a thriller, a modern comedy, a science fiction tale and a post-apocalyptic story. And each one is interrupted, mid-flow by one of the others. It’s an interesting idea and – surprisingly – it works.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Admittedly the constant shifting from one tale (and genre) to another does not exactly make for easy reading, but each piece is certainly well-formed and intriguing enough to keep you reading. I especially enjoyed Letters from Zedelghem and The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, both of which I wanted to continue.

This is a bold, strong and impressive novel. I would certainly be interested to see what David Mitchell’s other novels are like.

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