I don’t generally gush about books. I love the idea of books. I really like some of them. Others are nice, probably won’t read them again. But this one makes my Top 5 all-time list, if such a thing were written in stone.
Mitchell takes six stories written about six different periods in history, narrated by six different voices, in six completely different literary styles, and makes one magnificent symphony of a novel. It’s ok to use that metaphor because he does. In fact, at one point in the narrative, the composer Robert Frobisher asks his friend Rufus Sixsmith in a letter if his own Cloud Atlas Sextet, described as “a sextet for overlapping soloists,” is Revolutionary or Gimmicky. But really Mitchell is asking the reader. And my answer is Both.
I’ve seen the movie twice and will watch it again tomorrow. It’s very good. But Mitchell’s novel is better.
It’s better because it boils all the ills of society and corprocracy into a few gems of narrative that each of the focal characters share with people close enough to listen. And so no matter if you’re a notary sailing on a schooner from Australia to California in 1849, an unknown bi-sexual composer in 1931, a libbed female journalist in 1975, an imprisoned senior citizen trying to get back to your publisher’s world in 2004, a surprisingly self-actuated fabricant fast food server 100 years in the future, or a simple goatherd trying to protect his family from marauders in the deep future after the Fall of Civilization; the truth about life and death and happiness and sadness and power and will are the same. Find your place. Love your life. Respect everyone you can. And always know that what you do makes an impact.
If you haven’t read this book, do it.