Sunday, 31 March 2013

Book Review: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

I picked this book up at Blackwells in Oxford last month when I was craving some more fiction in my life.  I have a bad habit of neglecting fiction because I feel guilty spending my time reading if I'm not contributing to some sort of knowledge growth for some reason.  Too much student-ing I guess.

But the front cover of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet caught my eye as I'm interested in Japanese culture (I've studied Japanese since my teen years and have been to Japan a couple times), and I recognise David Mitchell's name but have never read The Cloud Atlas or any other of his books before.  I have to say I really enjoyed it, but my feelings about this book is about as complex as his list of characters!

The book takes place at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, on Dejima, a Dutch trading post on an artificial island off Nagasaki.  It follows a number of characters, namely Jacob de Zoet, a young pious Dutchman working with the trading company to prove and make a name for himself so that when he returns home he can be accepted by his love's family and win her hand.  However, on Dejima he falls in love with a young medical student, a Japanese midwife with a scarred face named Aibagawa Orito.

A map of Dejima, the 17th century artificial
island built by merchants
The story is rich and further in becomes truly epic, which I didn't at first expect.  What I was most suprised about was the sheer number of characters in the story.  It is written from the point of view of a number of them as the story transitions, as well.  I stuggled to keep track of who was who, and gave up a few times - there are character lists at the back, which indicates how truly numerous they are.

This story contained cultural elements from historical Japan, Holland, and Britain, and for that reason it added another dimension of 'cognitive skill' to get through as well.  The characters' language is rich with references to items and concepts that are foreign both in time and space, and it was sometimes a bit frustrating to read on knowing that you weren't completely understanding the richness the author obviously knew more about through his obviously extensive research.  Mitchell had lived in Japan when he was young, and very skillfully takes you to 18th century Japan, with sights, smells, images - but doesn't slow much to explain them all.  My Japanese was good enough to understand phrases used in the book, but I still felt a bit lost in certain circumstances when you just had to accept that there was some richer meaning that a 17th century Japanese, or Dutch, person would have understood much better.

My biggest criticism of the book is related to this - Mitchell introduces characters to the story at an alarming rate, and often all at once, whose names are difficult to pronounce and hard to remember.  While it makes for realistic and believable situations, the reader (or I, anyways) became frustrated at the lack of hand-holding to point to who was saying what.  Often speech was said and not marked - and when five or so new characters are talking, my brain just couldn't handle who was who - the frustration becoming heightened, when all of those characters in turn became important to the story in some way or another.
Dejima is a real, and you can visit it if you're ever
in the Nagasaki area!

But the plot was truly epic, and enjoyable.  The characters were dynamic and believable, and interesting.  The imagery was great as well, and Mitchell illustrated his story in my mind beautifully.  It was a long and complex book, but a fantastic ride.  And even though it was fiction, I was learning about 18th century botany, medicine, and international trade and politics at the same time!

I'd rate this book 4 out of 5 stars - thoroughly enjoyable but definitely not an 'easy read'!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

March Giveaway Winner

Hooray!  It's time to announce the winner of my March giveaway for an Alice in Wonderland Bookshelf Necklace!

*drumroll* ...and the winner is...

*********Sydney D.!*********

Congratulations!  I'll be getting in touch with you soon to let you know you've won!

Monday, 25 March 2013


Yes, I'm blogging about berries.  I love berries.  Sweet juicy fruit, magically growing on a bush for our picking pleasure, to put in pancakes or muffins or pies.  It's the best thing!

I was partly inspired by my love of berries to make these little blackberry earrings, made from polymer clay:

Blackberry Earrings by Coryographies

The varnish gives it a nice shine and makes me want to go by tartlet cups and whipping cream!

An old childhood favourite berry was, however, this little darling:

This is the mighty huckleberry, which I loved to graze on when outdoors, and bring in a little margarine container full for Sunday pancakes.  I thought they might make some cute earrings if I can capture their charm.

In a tribute to berries, I've made an Etsy treasury.  See if there's something you like.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Giveaway and New Bookshelf Necklace: Alice in Wonderland Bookshelf Necklace

It's time for my next giveaway!  This month I will be giving away my brand new Alice in Wonderland Bookshelf Necklace:

It features a light blue tea set on the top shelf, and a white rose (painted red) on the second.  There is also a little bottle charm attached to the necklace that says 'Drink Me'!  It is strung on an 18" gold chain.

For more pictures you can see it on my Etsy page here:

Enter through Rafflecopter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest closes on March 30th, and the winner will be announced on March 31st!  Good luck!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

March updates and February roundup

Hey girl, Cory's a bit busy at the moment,
but she'll get that next giveaway up and
running real soon...
In my dialect (the Cory dialect, not the Canadian dialect) a couple of days may mean over a week.  But I will have my next giveaway up and running soon!

So what has happened, right, is I went and got another temporary job.  March - July tend to be pretty dry in the sales.  And by 'tend to' I mean that's the way it was last year!  This is only year 2 of Coryographies after all...

So I got another temporary job to supplement the ol' income while no one buys bookshelf necklaces over the Spring/Summer.  I'm also saving up for that possible PhD that I applied for, and am awaiting new on that - but until then I need to be busy at both jobs.  Which means I'm a bit less bloggy again.

But I'll keep trying!  There's a new necklace to unveil after all, that is sitting on my kitchen table as wel speak... just need to take a few pics and upload them so I can organise the giveaway too.

Also, I haven't done my February round up of books on my supposed goal of reading 150 books in 2013.  I'll be honest here, there's no way I'll make this goal.  But hey, reach for the stars and land on the moon, it's all good.  Here's what I can add for February's reading though:

-The Origins of Grammar: Evidence from Early Language Comprehension by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

-The Seamstress by Maria Duenas

Doesn't sound like much?  It's not.  But I have read a bunch of papers which I can add to the list which I told myself I can make count...

In other news, my husband has just informed me that there is a place in England called "Bapchild".  Nice.