Thursday, 10 January 2013

Ghostwritten - David Mitchell

After reading (and falling in love with) Cloud Atlas earlier this year, I definitely wanted to read another David Mitchell book and see what he could do in other stories. I had bought myself Ghostwritten when I finished my dissertation and hadn't sat down to read it yet. As I'm moving soon and trying to get rid of a lot of my books, I decided to start it.

Ghostwritten, much like Cloud Atlas, is written in sections. Each section is a different area of the globe and a different character. Sometimes the section is only one day in their life and sometimes it's whole months following them. Each character is a unique voice and each has something a bit strange going on. Sometimes there's a ghost involved, a noncorpus, a dopelganger. Sometimes there's something a bit technological like the Zookeeper and sometimes there's just a doomsday cult. Each of these characters is just living his or her own life in a world populated by the others but through Mitchell's prose, you see how each of them, despite being worlds away and incredibly different, impact each other. 

I devoured this book. I was just completely taken aback by how good it is. I like this idea of cutting a book into sections and then using each section as a way to make an individual work that will play into the whole. Cloud Atlas did this with time and Ghostwritten does this with place. You are very aware that things are happening at different ends of the globe, in differing levels of schooling, poverty and success. Still, somehow, each characters' choices and actions impact each other to an astounding degree. 

Another thing I loved was the fact that Ghostwritten seems to take place in the same world as Cloud Atlas. There are characters from CA that show up in Ghostwritten as side characters. I really appreciated that and there were even hints in Ghostwritten towards events that would happen in Cloud Atlas. Although these books were written years apart, I love the idea that Mitchell created characters he liked and them kept them, exploring their lives in later books. 

Beyond his character creation and lovely fluidity of plot, Mitchell is also a great wordsmith. He can describe things in a way that makes them real and immediate. I particularly love a passage where he describes the different London tube lines as different personalities. He says, "The Victoria Line for example, breezy and reliable. The Jubilee Line, the young disappointment of the family, branching out to the suburbs, eternally  having extensions planned, twisting round to Greenwich, and back under the river out east somewhere. The District and Circle Line, well, even Death would rather fork out for a taxi if he's in a hurry."It's just one of those things where you read, think 'yes', and move on with a smile on your face. 

I absolutely adored Ghostwritten and think you should definitely give it a try. I want to read everything Mitchell's ever written now. I'm quite the fan.

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