Assignments are good for us. They make us do things we wouldn’t normally do. It’s why we like book clubs; we end up reading books we wouldn’t normally read. After not really enjoying the last book I read by David Mitchell, I was not too thrilled that my next reading group read was another one written by him. But this assignment did not disappoint. Cloud Atlas is good!
Cloud Atlas is a unique novel comprised of 6 novellas. Six little stories arranged in a nesting doll sort of fashion. Each story is interrupted and a new story begins, except the last one. It has an ending and then the rest of the stories get finished, one at a time. The first is historical fiction from the 19th century and consecutive ones move forward in time. The characters in each story “find” the previous story somewhere, sort of like finding a diary or seeing the movie.
I found it helpful to see the stories mapped out on Wikipedia before reading them. There are no spoilers in this link.
Cloud Atlas map in Wikipedia
Cloud Atlas was well done and I enjoyed most of it. I was tempted to skip to finish the other half of the stories right away when they got interrupted, but I resisted. It is better that way. The first story actually stops mid-sentence, so don’t think a page is missing from your copy! I do have a confession to make though. I did not read story number six. It was written in a difficult dialect and I couldn’t manage it. One sour note in an otherwise intriguing musical piece can certainly be overlooked.
Apparently there’s a movie adaptation coming out in 2012 starring Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant!