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I have never written a review for a novel before, but upon deciding to do so I knew immediately which one I would choose as my subject.

Although I actually read Ghostwritten at the start of the year, my memory of it is still vivid. This book completely took me by surprise. It made me feel a ridiculous range of emotions. I could feel my mind expanding alongside the massive scope of the novel with each turn of a page. Now, as enthusiastic as I sound, I know even some avid bookworms may not have heard of the literary circus performer that is David Mitchell. (No I’m not talking about the comedian, but he’s great too.)

The novel consists of 9 short stories of 9 very different characters across the globe. This idea really engaged me from the start, and even more so as I delved deeper into the book, when these seemingly independent characters and incidents weren’t as disparate as they first appeared to be. The task of piecing together this intricate puzzle really gave my intellect something to gnaw on.

How could a terrorist in Okinawa, a teenage musician from Tokyo, an accountant in Hong Kong, an old woman on a holy mountain in China, a body-jumping spirit in Mongolia, an art thief in St. Petersburg, a ghostwriter in London, a physicist from Ireland and a New York radio show host possibly be connected?

Exactly.

You might think I’m being a little too vague in describing it, but in honesty the plot is far from straightforward. Some would argue it doesn’t really have one but I disagree. My opinion is that the purpose of the book is not to tell a story as such, but to convey an idea.

Throughout these episodes the novel explores everything else in a writer’s arsenal; multiple stories equals multiple genres and multiple points of view. It ambitiously covers the human race as a whole. I don’t know anybody else that can discuss war, death, reincarnation, the existence of God, past historical events, corporate greed, oppression and class issues in such detail in only 400 pages! I feel that anybody could read this and relate to at least a part of the ensemble, and give an opinion on many more. Mitchell throws so many ideas and genres into the mix that it really shouldn’t work at all, and miraculously it does. His work here is delightfully readable and definitely not boring.

But I am willing to admit that this book and this author may be a little too much for some people. The style, structure and apparent lack of plot isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. My only advice when reading this is to always think and keep an open mind, because it is so rewarding. And maybe it will help to broaden your view of the world to be a more compassionate one, as it did for me.

“If you’re in life, chance. Viewed from the outside, like a book you’re reading, it’s fate all the way.”

Rating: 4 and a half cups of tea out of 5!

 

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Posted by Sean Macdonald

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