After reading 'Cloud Atlas,' I wanted to read something else by Mitchell, and this is the one that showed up on paperbackswap!
Describing it to someone last night, I said: "Well, it starts off historical, gets a little bit fantastic, becomes absolutely horrific, but mostly it's historical."
Set in 1799, the titular character, Jacob de Zoet, is a Dutch trader who's been sent to Japan in hopes of making his fortune and winning permission to marry the woman he loves. But across the world, with a five-year term of employment, a lot can happen.
The book is exquisitely researched - the background is more than believable, and the writing is wonderful. However, Mitchell doesn't let any literary pretensions hold him back. As I said, some of the stuff here is straight out of a sensationalist supernatural horror novel (and I loved it.)
He also writes a lot of random details that are gross just for their gross-out factor... "earthy," one might call it, and that I could do without.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed the book. The ending/epilogue was really well done, too... it had a plot that was slightly hard to manage without screwing it up, I thought, and Mitchell did an excellent job.
Definitely planning on reading more from this author.