My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.
Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?
Wow. Where to begin… I felt really intimidated starting this book (and I feel completely inadequate reviewing it), but having finished it, I wish I’d read it ages ago – not only because it really is brilliant, but it’s also a complex tale that deserves a re-read, or even several.
It’s impossible to review this book without mentioning its unique style. It comprises six novellas, all different and, together, spanning centuries. They’re told through journals, letters, and thrilling and outrageous first-hand accounts of political cover-ups, comedic misunderstandings and post-apocalyptic gloom. The first half of the book is made up of half of each of these stories – the sixth is uninterrupted – and then works its way backwards, completing each of the stories, until it ends where it began.
On their own, they make for very entertaining reading, some I found more intriguing than others. I especially enjoyed the letters of Robert Frobisher (a young, disowned and somewhat egocentric composer and romantic), the very funny and quirky account of Timothy Cavendish (a small-time publisher who gets more than he bargains for when he unexpectedly makes it big) and the story of Somni-451 (set in a not so distant future Korea, where Fabricants are manufactured to serve Purebloods, and long for Xultation).
But what makes this book so special, is how each separate story is linked by fragments from the story before. Recurring events, coincidence, comet-shaped birthmarks hinting at reincarnation and remnants of music and writing, all form connections between the individual characters. If you’re like me and enjoy spending almost too much time on book forums, it’s worth visiting a Cloud Atlas thread, there are some interesting theories about these connections – you could spend hour upon hour considering each possibility.
This novel really is such a heady mix of themes and connections. It’s a grand, bookish puzzle to be taken apart and reassembled. And don’t be surprised if you discover something new each time you do.