photo by Amy Brandon
“Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’clouds.” Zachry in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I’ve spent a month being paralyzed by the thought of trying to write about Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. How do you write about one book that is actually six novellas intertwined? A book that’s not about any one thing, but about everything and nothing, the grand and the minute. It slices life in fractals across time and space with six different genres and settings, with at least as many themes and plot lines, and with characters too numerable to track without notes.
I enjoyed Cloud Atlas because reading it felt like working a jigsaw puzzle. I had to keep notes to keep up with the whos and whats of the stories, and I had to get past a certain page, I think around page 25, before I liked it at all. Am I a better person for having read it? Did I learn anything? Any great revelations for me? Maybe not, but it was entertaining in several different ways, well written, often funny, and kept my mind engaged throughout. I call that a book worth reading.
“’He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!’Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”