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 by David Mitchell (cover)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.

My Thoughts:

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!

Those are my thoughts. Check out Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell on Goodreads or LibraryThing, or read other bloggers’ reviews!

Join the Conversation


  1. I like the idea of a plot like Russian nesting dolls. I have this on my shelf and have for years. I’ve always wanted to read it but for some reason am intimidated (maybe the length?). But wow, Erin! I’m so glad you’ve given it this shining endorsement. And I’m glad that you loved it!!

  2. I’ve never read this, despite hearing so many good things about it, I guess it’s something about deciding to invest the time in such a long story! Your review has made me change my mind though, I really love reading unique tales so I’ve added it to my list 🙂

  3. I have had this on my shelf for the longest time, and have only ever heard good things about it. That’s why I am so flabbergasted as to why I have never picked it up before! I should have already read this one by now, especially since I know it’s going to be great! This was a very awesome review and inspired me to try to read this book as soon as I can!

  4. Oh man, I am kind of ashamed that I still haven’t finished reading this. Hearing how much you loved this, it’s hard not to put down everything I’m reading right now to restart Cloud Atlas.

  5. I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and thought it was way, way too much description and I normally love description. I’d read this just to see how it compares.

    Did you know that the movie is coming out soon? Tom Hanks is in it!

  6. That is so wonderful to hear! Ever since I heard of Mitchell’s newest book, I’ve been intending to read this one! I’m so glad to read that you loved it and recommed it! I have to get this one.

  7. I’m glad you loved it. I read it earlier this year and really loved it too! I haven’t reviewed it yet because it’s so tough to really wrap your head around how to write about it. You managed to do a great job though. The Russian nesting dolls is the perfect description.

    I did get a little frustrated with the middle section of the book. I’m not a big fan of dialects and from what I remember, that section was really slow reading and difficult for me to get through. I think the composer section was my favorite. It was pretty funny!

  8. I loved Cloud Atlas; the different voices, the way the stories blended in and out of one another, the comet-shaped birthmark. It was a fantastic piece of fiction.

    Mitchell has becomes one of my all-time favourite authors, and now that I’ve read all his works, I can’t wait for the next book!

  9. I don’t know what was wrong with me, but the first time I tried to read this one, I gave up really quickly and vowed I would never read it. Thankfully I picked it up again and that time it stuck. I really enjoyed it too and I’m really excited to read more Mitchell.

  10. I think the trick with Cloud Atlas is to get through the first chapter whether you like it or hate it. Once you break through that barrier, there is no turning back. This is one of the most important works of fiction in the past 30 years.

    1. He IS, isn’t he?? I can’t wait to read more by him. I’m restraining myself, so that I don’t read everything right now and then have nothing left!

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