Synopsis: Oblivious to the bizarre ways in which their lives intersect, nine characters-a terrorist in Okinawa, a record-shop clerk in Tokyo, a money-laundering British financier in Hong Kong, an old woman running a tea shack in China, a transmigrating “noncorpum” entity seeking a human host in Mongolia, a gallery-attendant-cum-art-thief in Petersburg, a drummer in London, a female physicist in Ireland, and a radio deejay in New York-hurtle toward a shared destiny of astonishing impact. Like the book’s one non-human narrator, Mitchell latches onto his host characters and invades their lives with parasitic precision, making Ghostwritten a sprawling and brilliant literary relief map of the modern world.
Author: David Mitchel
Pub Date: 20th April 2000
“The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed”
After the huge craze over Cloud Atlas, I decided that I might have misunderstood David Mitchell’s genius and bought Ghostwritten; a friend had recommended it, the cover was gorgeous and the synopsis too intriguing not to try.
The novel is ambitious, adventurous and stunningly inventive. A true literary ventriloquist; Mitchell has an incredible ability to pull off several different narrators convincingly.
The plot is equally dexterous, skilfully weaving the smallest actions into some of the most important events in each narrator’s life. The idea that coincidence and chance coming together to affect everything is a brilliant concept and almost greatly done.
So why give it three stars? Despite Mitchell’s ability to differentiate between each narrative, the fragmented nature of the book meant that it took over 200 pages to get involved in the story. Once I did get into it, I raced through the last 150 pages to reach the final ‘ta-da!’ moment, only to put it down feeling cheated. I have never been so underwhelmed by a novel before.
Maybe I don’t ‘get’ Mitchell’s genius. Maybe a lot of things went over my head – many books have had the same effect in the past. However, I can still enjoy a book that I don’t completely understand and – however much I hate myself for saying this – Ghostwritten just wasn’t that enjoyable. Brilliant, yes; intriguing, yes; enjoyable…not really.
All in all, Ghostwritten is a powerful display of writing and an incredible debut novel – but one that I am unlikely to read again.