The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Atlantic and its Enemies and Trautmann’s Journey

“David Mitchell’s spectacularly accomplished and thrillingly suspenseful new novel travels back more than 200 years and out across the eastern seas to a place where two empires chafe against each other,” wrote Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: “Mitchell unfurls a narrative of panoramic span. Since his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), he has won acclaim and an impressive tally of literary awards for his fiction’s versatility and inventive flair. With this book, he masterfully extends his reach and deepens his concerns.” Leo Robson in the New Statesman, on the other hand, called the novel “a disappointment”: “In his previous work, Mitchell has proved himself a virtuoso of voice, but this novel is conducted in a third-person plod. The juggling of divergent perspectives in Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas, the adolescent solipsism of number9dream and Black Swan Green, have ill-equipped him for the challenges of the multi-character set-piece novel . . . The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a long shot, misses by a mile.” Henry Hitchings in the Financial Times praised Mitchell’s research as “meticulous” and his imagery as “often unsettlingly precise” but concluded that “for all the moments of brilliance, the chemistry doesn’t quite work.”

The Atlantic and Its Enemies derives much of its fascination from being an intellectual autobiography concealed within a major history book,” noted Michael Burleigh in the Spectator about Norman Stone’s latest volume: “He must be an outstanding raconteur, judging from the random by-ways he so frequently explores . . . Stone has produced a powerful alternative to the left ‘liberal’ reading of cold war history, without sounding in the least triumphalist.” Dominic Sandbrook in the Sunday Times, however, judged it “sometimes insightful, occasionally ridiculous and never less than hilariously provocative. Beginning with Europe in ruins at the end of the second world war, it canters eccentrically through world history to the end of the Reagan-Thatcher decade. The story, to put it crudely, is the triumph of the west; the heroes are Thatcher, Charles de Gaulle and Helmut Schmidt; the driving force is free-market capitalism. Every few pages the narrative teeters on the brink of a full-on saloon-bar rant . . . As a blue-chip alternative to Jeremy Clarkson, therefore, this book is highly entertaining. As a serious contribution to history, though, it is pretty useless.” “The book is not without its merits,” concluded Archie Brown in the Daily Telegraph: “It is readable and wide-ranging. The author does not disguise his numerous prejudices and those who share them will find much to enjoy.”

“The story of Trautmann’s footballing career is impressive. But a truly remarkable story – uncovered with immense skill by Catrine Clay and told in the authentic accents of this tough, driven, fierce-tempered sportsman – lies behind it”. So Miranda Seymour summed up in the Daily Telegraph Trautmann’s Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup: “a thoughtful biographer has given depth and substance to the plainly told story of an uncommon life.” “Trautmann’s Journey is a remarkable story, well told,” wrote Roger Moorhouse in the Independent on Sunday. “Only occasionally does Clay incorporate too much extraneous material into her account. In general, her narrative moves along briskly, ably combining the narrow focus of her subject’s life with the broad sweep of events.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds