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The year is 1799 and Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk at the Dutch East India Company, intends to make his fortune. He plans to stay in Dejima (the man-made island where the Dutch traded with the Japanese) for a single year and earn his fortune so he can marry his fiancee Anna. However, while he is there, he meets an unusual young woman with a burned face by the name of Orito Aibagawa. The daughter of a Samurai and a midwife, she's studying medicine under Dr. Marinus and Jacob becomes quite attracted to her and Orito seems to reciprocate his affections.
However, after a series of twists and turns, both Jacob and Orito end up in serious trouble and soon more lives than theirs rest on the choices they make....
This is the fifth novel by David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas. It was published in 2010 and is a current New York Times Hardcover Bestseller. Well worth reading.
- All Asians Are Alike: Completely subverted by the narrative, but the more ignorant white characters tend to view them this way
- Bittersweet Ending: Could also be a Downer Ending, depending on how the reader views it.
- Butt Monkey: Jacob, especially in Part 1.
- The Captain: Penhaligon of The Phoebus.
- Character Development: both Jacob and Orito Aibagawa
- The Master of Go: Enomoto.
- Christianity in Japan: forbidden in Japan at the time, all the Dutch have to surrender their bibles, crosses, and other Christian aritfacts before they set foot on Dejima. Jacob manages to hide his psalter, a fact that becomes important later on in the book
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Even the more sympathetic Dutch characters keep slaves, keeping Japanese courtesans as 'wives' is common practice and all half-Japanese, half-Dutch children are under the jurisdiction of the Nagasaki magistrate for their entire lives and cannot leave Dejima without his permission.
- Deus Ex Machina: Pendergast stops firing on Dijima because Jacob's red hair reminds him of his son. Possibly lampshaded by the fact that Jacob is reciting the 23 Psalm at the time.
- Did Not Get the Girl
- Dr. Jerk: Marinus
- Eats Babies: Yeah, Enomoto is just that evil.
- Honor Before Reason: The titular character. Contrasted with several other characters in the book. Also applies to Aibagawa when she has a chance to escape Shiranui shrine, but goes back for the sake of Yayoi and her twins
- Indy Ploy: Jacob towards the end has to rely on these.
- Not Good with People: Dr. Marinus
- Out-Gambitted: Ogawa.
- People Farms
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules: Jacob again
- Seppuku: Subverted. Enomoto thinks that Shiriyama is intending to commit seppuku. Instead, Shiriyama poisons himself, his chairman and Enomoto
- Smug Snake: Peter Fischer
- Tear Jerker
- This Is Unforgivable!: The magistrate Shiriyama says this to Enomoto as they're both dying.
- Touch of Death: Enomoto has the unnerving ability to remove the "ki" from lesser creatures, effectively killing them instantly.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Unico Vorstenbosch by the end of part one and Lord Abbot Enomoto until his Karmic Death
- The Verse: A subtle, easily-missed example-- the minor character Satsuki Miyake mentions that she hails from the small island of Yakushima, hinting that she's a distant ancestor of Eiji Miyake, the protagonist of Mitchell's 2001 novel number9dream, who also comes from Yakushima.