The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

"The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" is a historical fiction novel written by David Mitchell and published in 2010. The book is set in Japan during the late 18th century and offers a rich and immersive exploration of cultural clash, intrigue, and personal transformation.

Plot Overview:

The novel follows the story of Jacob de Zoet, a young Dutch clerk who travels to the trading post of Dejima, a small man-made island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. Jacob arrives at Dejima to work for the Dutch East India Company, hoping to make enough money to marry his fiancée back in the Netherlands and secure his family's future.

While on Dejima, Jacob becomes entangled in the complex world of trade, diplomacy, and cultural exchange between the Dutch traders and the isolated Japanese society. He navigates the challenges of interacting with Japanese officials and negotiates cultural differences while forming unexpected connections with various characters, including a Japanese midwife named Orito Aibagawa.

As Jacob becomes more deeply immersed in the events on Dejima, he uncovers hidden agendas, personal secrets, and moral dilemmas that challenge his worldview and sense of self. The novel also delves into the personal stories and ambitions of other characters on the island, weaving a tapestry of interconnected lives.


1. Cultural Clash: The novel explores the clash between Western and Japanese cultures, as well as the complexities of communication and understanding across cultural divides.

2. Identity and Transformation: Jacob's journey to Japan and his experiences on Dejima lead to personal growth and a reevaluation of his identity and values.

3. Colonialism and Power: The novel examines the dynamics of colonialism, imperialism, and the unequal power relationships between different nations and peoples.

4. Personal Ambitions: The characters' personal desires and ambitions drive much of the plot, often leading to unexpected consequences and conflicts.

5. Love and Relationships: The relationships between characters, including romantic connections and familial ties, play a significant role in shaping their decisions and actions.


"The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" has been praised for its meticulous historical research, rich character development, and evocative depiction of 18th-century Japan. David Mitchell's lyrical prose and intricate storytelling draw readers into the vividly portrayed world of Dejima and its inhabitants. The novel's exploration of cultural exchange, personal transformation, and the complexities of human interaction across cultural boundaries has resonated with readers and sparked discussions about history, identity, and the universality of human experiences.

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