Cloud Atlas came up. We agreed that the structural gimmicks were a showy waste, and whatever value it had came from one or two good stories embedded in the silly architecture. But, he said, you should read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which is excellent.
I took his advice and I am glad I did. I just finished listening to Mitchell's 2010 novel, and I loved it. In fact I loved it so much that this morning I started listening to it again. It is just my kind of book, with a fascinating historical setting enlivened by hints of the fantastic. The main character, de Zoet, is a clerk in the Dutch East India Company. In 1799 he arrives on Dejima, the tiny Dutch island outpost that was the only point of contact between Japan and the European world. Mitchell fills Dejima with a marvelous array of European and Japanese characters, the Dutchmen struggling to get on with their trading and their lives as Napoleon's conquests overturn the homeland they left behind.