My Contemporary Fiction Challenge 4#: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

With phenomenal skill David Mitchell navigates a fictitious world that jumps centuries and continents within six narratives that intertwine to form a perplexing insight into human nature. A bloody good read!

The novel shows the Nietzschean idea of recurrence, whereby time is not linear but cyclical and events that have occurred once are destined to reoccur infinitively.  This idea is suggested by the characters’ shared comet-shaped birthmark, and the way the novel acts as a mirror, visiting each narrative once and then begins the cycle again but in reverse. Each character can therefore be seen as a reincarnation of the same soul in a different time and space. This motif of inevitability seems to link to the dystopian elements that tie the novellas together to form Cloud Atlas– a text that suggests our world will always be governed by human nature and the greed and power inherent in all humans.

Cloud Atlas is morality fiction, showing through various different depictions of the same soul in different times and places amidst violence and oppression, be it in nineteenth century barbaric colonialism Adam Ewing witnesses or the subordination of Sonmi-451 in a totalitarian future where clones are used as brain-dead slaves.  a warning against real barbarity and immorality through fictional representations of how forms of violence and oppression are inevitable in every era and every continent. If we, like David Mitchell’s characters, are merely puppets being given predestined roles our prospects appear bleak; we are condemned to repeat violent acts against each other forever…….

      I’m honestly going to review a happy book soon, I am not normally this morbid honest- too much Dexter and American Horror Story. I read this book on my travels so unfortunately this review is less detailed than my other reviews. 

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Book swapping around Europe anyone?

What a hiatus! I have been on a trip around Europe for the past 6 weeks trying to squeeze in as much culture, history and exploration into my time as possible! I have also done some reading amidst the traveller’s chaos….

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I was enticed by the books left by others on the shelves at the various hostels (and I mean various) that I encountered on my trip. It’s interesting to see what others classify as ‘holiday’ reads when I’m arduously ploughing through the two volumes that complete The Marble Faun trying to gauge Hawthorne’s haughty interpretations of Roma and Tuscany. So I decided to pick something light, something silly- time for Nicholas Sparks!

Now the Nicholas Sparks’ novel in question was Safe Haven, discovered in a bizarre Venetian hostel with invisible staff and a fat tabby cat. I am not one for clichéd romance novels but I thought -what the heck- and after the seriously morbid look at human morality in Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun I felt I needed some Sparks (hah).

I read Safe Haven whilst sunbathing in Croatia and although it was sufficiently interesting enough for me to read it all I’m not going to recommend it to anyone, or ever really think about it again. To surmise: it is a clichéd read for a sweaty day on the beach when all you want to do is stare at some words on a page between bouts of sleep.

The novel is based around the experiences of Katie, a mysterious woman that arrives in Southport desperate to keep her old life secret. However she becomes friends with her next-door neighbour and the sexy widowed shop owner nearby called Alex and slowly starts to establish herself in the community, even (surprise, surprise) to fall desperately in love with Alex. She admits to him that she is running away from her crazy and obsessive husband who is unfortunately still looking for her…..

The writing is formulaic, and despite having never read a Sparks novel I feel pretty confident that they are all just variations on this novel with a different problem keeping the lovers apart.

The characters are barely likeable or relatable…..they have no interests, hobbies, cultural views, political or religion standpoints bar living the American dream with the white picket fence. All Katie wants is a happy, suburban life as a mother and Alex’s wife despite having been held captive by her current husband… seriously? If I had been held captive by a man that I had once loved I would not be happy at the prospect of round two. I doubt many victims of severe trauma would go back to a life remotely reminiscent of the trauma they are trying to escape…..

Well, for a care-free holiday read I guess it ticked all the boxes- I was intrigued by the outcome of the book and surprised by the (perhaps stupid) supernatural twist. And between you and me it was quite fun to read….Ssshhh.