I’d been meaning to read Cloud Atlas ever since I heard about it. When my book group chose it for their July read, I had the perfect excuse to finally start. A few others were interested as well, so we organized an informal Reading Buddies readalong.
About the Book:
Cloud Atlas is really six stories, set like Russian nesting dolls, one inside the other. It begins and ends with Adam Ewing, who keeps a journal as he travels across the south Pacific many years before our own. The peak of the mountain, the central story and the only one that isn’t split in half, takes place far beyond our time, near the end of human civilization. In between are four other tales, each one linked in some way to what comes before. Reading Cloud Atlas is truly a unique experience.
I loved this book. Loved it. I read it slowly, savoring the language, the writing, the cleverness of the structure, the connections between stories. I can’t remember the last time I read a book that delighted me so thoroughly on so many levels. It’s outrageously funny and gravely serious, it makes you smile and makes you think, it appears simple and then wows you with a sudden revelation. I rarely reread, but I could read Cloud Atlas again and again and never tire of it.
What impressed me most, perhaps, was the ease with which Mitchell modulates his voice to become each character. It goes beyond just becoming a new person each time, really — more like imitating an entire literary form. Ellen called this talent “literary ventriloquism,” and I can’t think of a more fitting phrase.
There are so many aspects of Cloud Atlas to ponder and discuss. For instance, there’s language. Mitchell plays with it, changing the language he uses in a section to match the time, the situation, and the characters. By the final section, far in the future, he has invented a whole new vocabulary with clear roots in our modern English. Or, there’s the nature of fiction and reality. If the stories are connected, and just one of them is fiction, what does that mean for the others that are connected to it?
Cloud Atlas has something for every readerly aspect of you: the one that wants a good story, the one that revels in excellent writing, the one that likes a puzzle, the one that loves to be dazzled, the one that cares deeply about characters. It’s all there, and more. I adored this book, am so glad I was finally pushed to read it, and cannot wait to read more by Mitchell!