Book Beginnings

Book Beginnings ButtonGilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday in which you share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I was looking at some of my books that I’ve had for a long time and wondering which one to read next and I came across Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This was immensely popular when it first came out in 2004 and so I bought a copy and began to read it. Although the opening pages intrigued me after a few more pages I put it down; I just couldn’t get into it. After a while I tried it again, and again and still found it not very interesting and when I looked forward in the book I found it looked very disjointed and I gave up. There were plenty of books to read without struggling to read one that wasn’t interesting me.

Then they made a film and people started enthusing about it again. So, how many times do I try to read this book? It begins:

Thursday, 7th November –

Beyond the Indian hamlet, on a forlorn strand, I happened upon on trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoanuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a white man, his trowsers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt board & an outsized Beaver, shovelling & sifting the cindery sand with a tea-spoon so intently that he noticed me only after I hailed him from ten yards away. Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility. His nationality was no surprise. If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote that one may resort unchallenged by an Englishman, ’tis not down on any map I ever saw.

From the back cover:

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance …

It sounds amazing and extraordinary, but I’m still not sure because when I actually start reading it, the first chapter ends in the middle of a sentence. Is that really meant to make me want to read on when the next chapter seems totally unconnected? It reminds me of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, a book I didn’t finish reading, although I loved the beginning of that book.

Is Cloud Atlas really so good! If you have read it, what do you think? Please let me know.

13 thoughts on “Book Beginnings”

  1. I remember hearing so much about Cloud Atlas. Then, I began to hear the word “confusing.” I never did get a copy of it to read. Reading what you have written here it does seem like it’s worth another try. You’ve got spunk to keep trying. Good luck.


  2. Haven’t read it, though it’s been on my TBR for ages. I must say I love that first paragraph…


  3. I got about half way through and was then forced to put it down in order to read something that had to be finished for a certain date. The interesting thing is that I didn’t go back to it, although I do keep meaning to do so. Perhaps if I get snowed in at all this winter!


  4. I’ve picked it up and looked at it, and decided it wasn’t my sort of thing… as far as not finishing it goes, I believe reading should be a pleasure, so if you’re not enjoying it, don’t carry on reading!


  5. Everything I read about Cloud Atlas makes me not want to read it. But it is very popular. I wonder if I could get into it despite my inclination. I am interested to know if you get through it and like it.

    This is the first week in a while I’ve had time to leave comments and not just fly by. Thanks for participating in Book Beginnings on Friday!


  6. Margaret – I’ve not read it, and I confess, I wasn’t really drawn to it. But even putting that personal feeling aside, I’d wonder at a book where the first chapter ends in the middle of a sentence. Perhaps I’m too much of a purist…


  7. The only reason for me to be remotely interested in David Mitchell is because he shares my husband’s name. lol I’ve seen quotes and synopses of his work many times and sort of regard it as an experimental type of writing that failed. Or it just may be that I lack imagination. Whatever – he’s not on my list. I echo the thought that if reading isn’t fun, read something else that is fun.


  8. Thanks for your comments. It’s interesting that none of you have read it, except for Alex who had to stop about halfway through and intends to finish it. So, I haven’t heard from anyone who has read to the end and either loved, liked or hated it.

    Some comments are that if the book isn’t interesting me or fun then don’t read it. I’d have absolutely no problem with abandoning this book if I’d borrowed it – but I bought it! And it seems wasteful not to read it and it could be that if I read it now I might have a different reaction to it – I started Wolf Hall at least twice before I got into it – and I loved it. So I will give it one more go.


  9. I got stuck too, despite having loved some of his earlier writing. Think I managed about 100 pages, maybe more, but I can’t remember anything about it. I did like – and finish – the Calvino, but it was a lot shorter!


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