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Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

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Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#1  Postby Gannon » 16 Nov 2012, 23:39

***SPOILER ALERT***

"Ghostwritten" is quite possibly the best debut novel I have ever read. I know that Dato, Fran and myself have been raving about Mitchell's writing lately but imho our comments are justified.

Once again similar in style to "Cloud Atlas", "Ghostwritten" is a collection of narratives which are linked in different but ingenious ways. Nine different characters, all from different walks of life, inhabit the book and their stories all interact. Also their stories all take place in nine different locations all around the globe. They also take place at different times, but the reader is never given an actual time and is left to guess.

We have a terrorist from Okinawa, a clerk from a record shop in Tokyo, a corrupt British lawyer in Hong Kong, an elderly woman running a tea shop in China, a transmigrating parasitic spirit, jumping from host to host in Mongolia(my favourite), an art thief in Petersburg, a musician from London, a physicist who has invented a devestating weapon in Ireland(whoohoo Fran), and a dusk till dawn radio dj in New York.

I found the main theme of the book to be conflictions between chance and fate. Many of the links between the narratives seem at first to be coincidental or acts of chance. However as you start reading more of the book you start to ask yourself if they are really acts of fate instead. Was it fate that led event A to cause event B or was it just complete coincidence. After reading the novel as a whole, events seem to have happened for a reason but conclusions are really left up to the reader.

I love how Mitchell pays homage to Asimov in the second last narrative with(what I assume to be) a sentient computer or program that is governed by a set of laws, trying to run the world. He also mentions swans alot but I think I will need DATo or Fran to figure out what he is on about there :D .

Readers who have read "Cloud Atlas" will immediately recognise some favourite characters. However seeing as though "Ghostwritten" was written first if you have not read either I would really recommend that you read "Ghostwritten" first. I flipped between both novels trying not to miss anyone :D .

One of the things I love about Mitchell's writing is his obvious love of metaphors and similies. The beautiful metaphorical writing of "Cloud Atlas" and "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet" is no where as abundant in this novel, but hey it is his debut, and still smartly done. I also missed the humour that was found in "Cloud Atlas".

Once again "Ghostwritten" is a novel which almost demands multiple readings. There are so many things that you can easily miss and I would not recommend reading it before going to bed. You will want to be bright and alert while reading this book.
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#2  Postby DATo » 17 Nov 2012, 22:14

Gannon,

You and Fran should receive advertising payment for your Mitchell-book plugs. After reading your post I can't wait to read Ghostwritten.

I am sailing along with Number9Dream and, as usual, its plot and outward appearances are very, very different from any of Mitchell's other books. I think that the scope of Mitchell's subject choices is what so pleasantly surprises me every time I pick up one of his books for the first time. I don't know if you've ever read this book before but it has some very vague elements of Black Swan Green except in this case the protagonist is 20 years old instead of 13. As with the former book Mitchell is able to capture the mindset of his character perfectly and place you snugly within his world.

I've read up a little on Ghostwritten, though not enough to have any clear view of the subject matter or plot, and with what I've learned, along with your recommendation I feel I am going to really enjoy it. A melancholy sadness overcomes me however because I know with each book I read I am coming closer to the end of Mitchell's current collection of novels and I don't know what I will do with myself when I finally arrive at the end - probably become a hermit wandering the ancient Inca roads of Peru or something .... *Sigh*

EDIT: I've left a link in Fran's Thousand Autumns thread that I think you will enjoy. It is an interview with Mitchell concerning Thousand Autumns and it is really quite good.
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#3  Postby Gannon » 18 Nov 2012, 01:42

DATo wrote:Gannon,

You and Fran should receive advertising payment for your Mitchell-book plugs. After reading your post I can't wait to read Ghostwritten.

I am sailing along with Number9Dream and, as usual, its plot and outward appearances are very, very different from any of Mitchell's other books. I think that the scope of Mitchell's subject choices is what so pleasantly surprises me every time I pick up one of his books for the first time. I don't know if you've ever read this book before but it has some very vague elements of Black Swan Green except in this case the protagonist is 20 years old instead of 13. As with the former book Mitchell is able to capture the mindset of his character perfectly and place you snugly within his world.

I've read up a little on Ghostwritten, though not enough to have any clear view of the subject matter or plot, and with what I've learned, along with your recommendation I feel I am going to really enjoy it. A melancholy sadness overcomes me however because I know with each book I read I am coming closer to the end of Mitchell's current collection of novels and I don't know what I will do with myself when I finally arrive at the end - probably become a hermit wandering the ancient Inca roads of Peru or something .... *Sigh*

EDIT: I've left a link in Fran's Thousand Autumns thread that I think you will enjoy. It is an interview with Mitchell concerning Thousand Autumns and it is really quite good.


Hi DATo,

Thanks for the link. I did not go into any detail with the Ghostwritten review because I really want you and Fran to enjoy it without knowing anything about it. Having read Cloud Atlas I think you will both really love it, you will know what I mean after you read it.

I know what you mean about coming to the end of Mitchell's current work, I feel exactly the same. I am now the proud owner of four of his books all signed first edition, first prints, and I am in the process of tracking the others down. His writing never ceases to amaze me, particularly how easily he can switch genres within the same novel. I don't think readers appreciate how hard it is to write historical fiction as in "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet". Your research has to be complete and you need to get everything right or you will be crucified.

I sure hope he is currently working on something at the moment.

I can't wait for you to read it so you can help me with bits that I am not quite sure about. :D

Ps Instead of wandering the ancient Inca roads of Peru, why don't you wander the roads of Ancient Rome. I will meet you there for a coffee. :D
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#4  Postby Fran » 18 Nov 2012, 06:03

I'm seriously thinking of treating myself to Mitchell's full output for Xmas & locking myself away to read & reread each and every one of them over and over. I won't be going for signed first editions so no need to worry there Gannon, I'm more than happy with the plebeian versions. :wink:
Please, please can I join the wanders of the roads of Ancient Rome & I'll buy the cakes. :lol:
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#5  Postby DATo » 18 Nov 2012, 07:02

Oh dear !!! I fear that tonight I shall dream of the three of us garbed in hooded robes with rope belts slowly walking a portion of the Appian Way in single file while flaying our backs with long, tasseled bookmarks and reciting a litany of lines from Mitchell's books in a monotone, Gregorian chant manner.

*Extremely jealous of Gannon's signed books but doing my best not to show it.*
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#6  Postby Gannon » 18 Nov 2012, 18:26

@Fran

Of course you can join us, you don't even have to ask. You don't even have to bring anything, just yourself is enough. :D

@DATo

Hahahaha :lol: :lol: :lol: , very funny indeed. I watched the youtube link, and then proceeded to watch a heap of others with some of them including him reading passages from his books. His interviews are extremely interesting and informative, thanks again for the link. :D
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#7  Postby DATo » 21 Nov 2012, 07:23

I don't know whether or not to recommend Number9Dream. I still have not finished it but there are some very strange things going on with it ... even for Mitchell. There is some very graphic violence which is quite disturbing but which I must admit appears as necessarily intended for artistic development of the plot and characters. Also, something very weird takes place in the middle of the book where the story takes a sort of surrealistic left turn. This turn has a logical basis in the foundation of the story but I think it has some other, metaphorical meaning as well. So far I am having trouble understanding what Mitchell is trying to do with this. Perhaps things will clear themselves up as I continue to read but I have a very strong feeling that they will not.

The story is good, and, as usual, is very different from anything of Mitchell's that I've read before. I would give it a guarded recommendation anyway I think, but be forewarned that it may be disturbing on a number of levels.
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#8  Postby Gannon » 22 Nov 2012, 16:18

DATo wrote:I don't know whether or not to recommend Number9Dream. I still have not finished it but there are some very strange things going on with it ... even for Mitchell. There is some very graphic violence which is quite disturbing but which I must admit appears as necessarily intended for artistic development of the plot and characters. Also, something very weird takes place in the middle of the book where the story takes a sort of surrealistic left turn. This turn has a logical basis in the foundation of the story but I think it has some other, metaphorical meaning as well. So far I am having trouble understanding what Mitchell is trying to do with this. Perhaps things will clear themselves up as I continue to read but I have a very strong feeling that they will not.

The story is good, and, as usual, is very different from anything of Mitchell's that I've read before. I would give it a guarded recommendation anyway I think, but be forewarned that it may be disturbing on a number of levels.


Thanks for the warning DATo, I am going to read it when I finish Asimov's foundation trilogy( which I am really enjoying). :D
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#9  Postby DATo » 27 Nov 2012, 01:22

I am three chapters into Ghostwritten and I can understand why so many people have raved about this book. Much like Cloud Atlas there are independent stories connected by what, so far, appear to be insignificant threads. The writing is what I have come to expect from Mitchell ... ABSOLUTELY SUPURB !!!

It is everything you said it would be Gannon, and I'm not even 1/2 way into it yet. Many thanks for the recommendation!

I like this book much better than I did Number9Dream. Though #9 was still a very good book it doesn't compare to this one.
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#10  Postby Gannon » 27 Nov 2012, 03:00

DATo wrote:I am three chapters into Ghostwritten and I can understand why so many people have raved about this book. Much like Cloud Atlas there are independent stories connected by what, so far, appear to be insignificant threads. The writing is what I have come to expect from Mitchell ... ABSOLUTELY SUPURB !!!

It is everything you said it would be Gannon, and I'm not even 1/2 way into it yet. Many thanks for the recommendation!

I like this book much better than I did Number9Dream. Though #9 was still a very good book it doesn't compare to this one.


Howdy DATo, I am glad that you are enjoying Ghostwritten. I am about half of the way through Number9dream and am not reading your review until I finish. I have just started hitting the ultra violent bits and believe that to stay true to the story that this violence is indeed needed. It gives the reader the idea of just how violent and dangerous the Japanese underworld is. The book would just not seem realistic without the violence.

I absolutely loved the beginning of the book where Miyake keeps imagining multiple daydreams of finding his father while he is sitting in the Jupiter cafe. I also love whenever there is a numerical value used in the story it is a nine or a multiple of nine. I think this is a great idea.

Can't wait to finish, and have a look at your review, and then move on to "Black Swan Green". :D
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#11  Postby DATo » 27 Nov 2012, 05:41

Gannon,

Did you too feel the similarity between the main character of Number9Dream and the store attendant in the second story of Ghostwritten? I think the mothers of the two had similar backgrounds as well but the young men's names are different. The threads which connect the stories of Ghostwritten are starting to emerge more clearly and perhaps because they emerge so gently they have an even greater effect upon me.

Since my last post I have finished the third chapter - Holy Mountain - and I thought that the way Mitchell wrote the ending of that chapter was perhaps his most poetic piece of prose-writing yet. I was similarly taken by Mitchell's description of the flock of birds in Thousand Autumns which circled the city at the beginning of one of the chapters, I think it was the one where the magistrate dies.

I'm sure there are many more surprises to come and I can't wait to find them while at the same time telling myself to slow down and savor each word. I have the same problem when I eat a really great meal ... well, I have an excuse ... I'm Italian, and Italians are genetically programmed to love eating *LOL*

I enjoyed the beginning of Number9Dream too. In fact I wrote a post about it but immediately deleted it because I thought it gave too much away. I thought his wry assessments of the waitresses and others in the cafe and other such daydreams in the early chapters of the book were very humorous.
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#12  Postby Gannon » 27 Nov 2012, 15:24

DATo wrote:Gannon,

Did you too feel the similarity between the main character of Number9Dream and the store attendant in the second story of Ghostwritten? I think the mothers of the two had similar backgrounds as well but the young men's names are different. The threads which connect the stories of Ghostwritten are starting to emerge more clearly and perhaps because they emerge so gently they have an even greater effect upon me.

Since my last post I have finished the third chapter - Holy Mountain - and I thought that the way Mitchell wrote the ending of that chapter was perhaps his most poetic piece of prose-writing yet. I was similarly taken by Mitchell's description of the flock of birds in Thousand Autumns which circled the city at the beginning of one of the chapters, I think it was the one where the magistrate dies.

I'm sure there are many more surprises to come and I can't wait to find them while at the same time telling myself to slow down and savor each word. I have the same problem when I eat a really great meal ... well, I have an excuse ... I'm Italian, and Italians are genetically programmed to love eating *LOL*

I enjoyed the beginning of Number9Dream too. In fact I wrote a post about it but immediately deleted it because I thought it gave too much away. I thought his wry assessments of the waitresses and others in the cafe and other such daydreams in the early chapters of the book were very humorous.


Howdy DATo, thanks for your thoughts on the similarity between Miyake and the store attendant in "Ghostwritten". I had a strong feeling after Miyake was first introduced that I had read this character before. I think you may be on the money, it would be just like Mitchell to do this.

Don't you love how Mitchell links his novels with subtle touches that you can easily miss? I am going to sit down and read the novels in chronological order and I am willing to bet that I will find many things that I have missed.

On the movie front, I found out that we (Australia) are one of the last countries for the movie to screen. It is already playing in some countries, yet we don't get it until I think it's late March next year. I know that translations can delay release dates, but if it was originally shot in English then why are we just about the last to get it?
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#13  Postby Fran » 27 Nov 2012, 18:02

You two boys are really torturing me ... how am I expected to cope with waiting for my copy when you both keep tempting me to read your posts? :wink:
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#14  Postby Gannon » 27 Nov 2012, 20:01

Howdy Fran, just checked again the release dates of Cloud Atlas and just when I thought that we were just about last to get it, guess what, you guys get it one day after us. Aus release date 21st Feb, Irish realease date 22nd. I still can't believe this as it was released in Canada on the 8th September and the US on the 8th of October. Why is there such a lengthy delay until our screenings? AHHHHRRRRRRRRRR! :evil:
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Re: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Post Number:#15  Postby DATo » 28 Nov 2012, 01:50

Fran,

I envy you. After I complete Ghostwritten I will have to wait for Mitchell's next novel (which I understand is in progress). You, on the other hand, get to read TWO of his books while I am thrashing about in "Mitchell Detox". I think I am going to do what Gannon is planning to do. I will probably begin rereading all of the books a second time chronologically while looking for all the subtle things I've missed while I was gluttonously devouring them on the first read.

I think you will find that Number9Dream is probably the most abstract of Mitchell's novels. I think there is a wealth of stuff going on in this book which is very deep and I look forward to devoting some quality time to dissecting it in detail, but on the surface it lacks the beauty of Thousand Autumns. Once again Mitchell demonstrates his versatility by employing a totally different style and, for want of a better word, "feel", to this novel.

I am about 1/2 way through Ghostwritten and Gannon's opinion was spot-on accurate - I am totally enthralled by it. While taking nothing away from the other books Mitchell has written I have a feeling that by pure chance this last book I am reading by Mitchell is his best book to date. Trust me, you are going to love it.

Gannon,

To demonstrate my loyalty to you guys I am intentionally not going to see Cloud Atlas till you are able to see it too. I was off work last week and was sorely tempted to take in a matinee but I think it would be more fun to see it when you do - it would be more like being able to watch it together. We (you, me and Fran) have mutually devoted so much time to reading and discussing Mitchell's works that I would feel like a cad to see the movie before you have an opportunity to see it. Besides, it will be more fun to discuss the movie when it is equally fresh in our minds. If the trailer is any indication of the movie's quality I seriously doubt that we will be disappointed.
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