It’s the 17th century. The Dutch have an isolated trading post at Dejima, near Nagasaki, yet the Europeans and the Japanese are distrustful of each other. Greed and corruption bleed into both group’s lives. Into this foreign and dangerous climate enters the Dutch clerk Jacob De Zoet, an earnest, if somewhat naive man. Jacob’s mission is to find and eliminate out corruption at Dejima, but he quickly discovers that this task is easier said than done. In the midst of this challenging undertaking, he finds himself drawn in by Orito Aibagawa, a skilled midwife who trains with the Dutch doctor. These two heroes of the tale, along with all of the others in this story, must navigate the difficulties they find themselves in.
I have been reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy lately, so I was glad to delve into some historical fiction. It took me awhile to get going on this book, but I found that when I read larger chunks of the book, I got more into the story. Mitchell uses present tense, a choice that I initially found threw me out of the story. Although I have read plenty of books that use present tense, many of them are young adult, so the plotlines aren’t as complex. Once I got used to the book’s complexity and started reading larger chunks at a time, I greatly enjoyed it. I thought that Mitchell did a superb job of weaving a complex story and making sure that there was an equal amount of good and bad in both groups. I liked that the plot wasn’t too railroaded, yet Jacob–who I really liked as a character–was able to triumph in the end. I can’t personally comment on the historical accuracy, but I thought it was well-balanced. I would definitely say check this one out.