Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell: No matter what the book jacket claims, this is not a novel. It is a series of vaguely interconnected short stories spanning the globe and leaping around in time. A more studious reader may have found more synergy than I did – I have my suspicions regarding the relationships between, for instance, the narrator of “Mongolia,” His Serendipity, and the Zookeeper in “Night Train,” but they are only suspicions. Nothing is confirmed, nothing is clear. Summing up the plot is impossible, but here’s a taste: the book starts with a doomsday cult member awaiting the end of the world in Okinawa, trots back and forth across hundreds of years and thousands of miles, and finally meanders its way back to him at the very end.

A lot of people like books with open endings where you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen or, as in the case of this book, what the hell just happened. I personally prefer things to be at least tied up loosely. I like to know how the characters are related, both to each other and to the overarching story, and there’s simply no hope of that for this story. Too many characters, too many details, not enough repetition for the slow kids like me to keep up.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book. The characters were phenomenal. All so different and yet so three-dimensional, so real. There was a lot more dialogue in this book than I’m used to, to the point where I occasionally had to backtrack to figure out who was speaking, but in general the speech patterns were distinct enough that he said/she said weren’t strictly necessary. Also, the descriptions of life in the various locations were brief yet so concise I felt like I was there.

In the end, I believe this is a book that requires multiple reads to totally grasp. That is both high praise and harsh criticism. If you like your fiction to be a total mind trip, then Ghostwritten is for you. If you prefer something a wee bit less convoluted, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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