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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is set in 1799 on the artificial island of Dejima in the harbor at Nagasaki, Japan. It is Japan's only port with the outside world and is manned by the Dutch East Indies Company. The Dutch men there are isolated, hard, and corrupt. Jacob de Zoet comes to Dejima as a young, devout man on a five-year assignment. During that time, he hopes to earn enough money so that he can marry his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. One of the few Japanese allowed to visit Dejima is the midwife Orito Aibagawa, who is learning Western medical techniques from the doctor there. The moment Jacob sees Orito, he is captivated by her. Orito is sent to a convent and the British threaten to take Dejima from the Dutch. Jacob's chances to have Orito as his own look bleak indeed. David Mitchell's novel has received mostly positive reviews with the London Times saying, "Prodigiously researched, it resurrects place and period with riveting immediacy. Imagining, with corresponding fullness, not just its charactersí present predicaments but their pasts and futures, it brims with rich, involving and affecting humanity."