The moment I saw the trailer for the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas (see below), I knew that I had to read the book. Split between six different narratives, Cloud Atlas explores the way in which human lives intertwine and connect throughout history. Although they never meet, a reluctant voyageur travelling across the Pacific in 1850, a disinherited composer living in Belgium in 1931, an investigative journalist in Governor Reagan’s California, an elderly publisher escaping his creditors, a genetically modified diner server on death row, and an islander living after the destruction of civilization have all unknowingly affected the destinies of each other in some small way.
If I thought that the trailer for Cloud Atlas was stunning, I was even more amazed by the beauty and eloquence of David Mitchell’s writing. On a number of occasions I found myself re-reading entire paragraphs in order to bask in the power and artistry of his words. My favourite quote from the entire novel, however, had to be the young composer’s confession that, “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.” Talk about a powerful line right there!
The plot of Cloud Atlas itself was a work of pure genius. Each section of the book is told by a different narrator in time, who at some point stumbles upon the story of the character who came before them. For example, Robert Frobisher discovers half of the journal written by Adam Ewing during his travels across the Pacific, Louisa Rey stumbles upon a series of letters written by Frobisher during his stay in Belgium, Timothy Cavendish is given half a manuscript written about the life of Lousia Rey, ect. It is only when the story reaches its climax that the unfinished story of each character is finally made complete.
Sounds complex? At times it was tough to wrap my head around the intricacies of the story. The first forty pages of Cloud Atlas were painfully slow, but once I got past the Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, the rest of the book was wildly entertaining. I especially loved Frobisher’s Letters from Zedelghem and the Orison of Somni-451. In fact, I loved the Orison of Somni-451 so much that I would recommend Cloud Atlas to people just for that one section alone!
Overall, Cloud Atlas was an impressive literary undertaking that David Mitchell accomplished with ease. Thought provoking and heart-wrenching, the stories of Adam Ewing, Frobisher, Louisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Somni-451, and Zachary will not easily be forgotten. Now that I’ve finally finished the book, I can’t wait to see my favourite characters come to life on the big screen!
Rating: 5 Stars