As I began reading the book, I realized I had absolutely no idea what Cloud Atlas was about other than it was some kind of literary hybrid people adored. From the movie poster, I had it in my head it leaned towards science fiction. For this reason, some of my reactions to the story are way out there. I think I’m behind on the reading schedule, but here are some thoughts …
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
SECTION 1: THE PACIFIC JOURNAL OF ADAM EWING
In this section, we are introduced to Adam Ewing who writes about his stopover on a South Pacific island where he meets Dr. Henry Goose, witnesses the horrible treatment of the Moriori people by their Maori masters and discovers a hidden tribal shrine.
♦ The section starts so abruptly, I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of a scene. It was very disorienting and it took me a few pages to adjust. Is this on purpose?
♦ I couldn’t help cringing at the 19th century stereotypes and racist attitude of the white people towards the native tribes. It doesn’t sit well with Ewing either, but he keeps a “stiff upper lip” ( see That’s Not English).
♦ Ewing’s tropical jungle hike was interesting because of the revelation that he is suffering some kind of “Ailment” with a capital A. What? Did I miss a previous mention of this? In his fright, Ewing was almost having an out-of-body experience, so I also thought maybe Ailment was code word for some kind of psychic power (obviously my head is still not screwed on straight at this point). Alas, no, it’s a parasite. Or is it?
♦ When the chapter suddenly cuts off, I was totally thrown for a loop! What happened? I must have flipped back and forth 5-6 times. Since I’m reading on an ereader, page jumping frequently occurs. But the unexpected ending is intentional and on a little research I discovered even Amazon received so many complaints they printed a disclaimer about the chapter.
SECTON 2; LETTERS FROM ZEDELGHEM
In this section, Robert Frobisher is our new narrator. A musician in the 1930s, he writes a series of letters to a colleague named Sixsmith about travelling to Belgium to approach a famous composer for a job. Frobisher is welcomed into the home of Vvyan Ayrs and his wife and daughter (actually his daughter hates him), and quickly becomes part of the household once Ayrs accepts him as an assistant. Frobisher is very determined to hide his past from the family, as well as other nefarious behaviour which he describes in his letters.
♦ Again, I needed a few pages to adjust to a new character and a new setting. I could actually feel my mind bending as it tried to figure out where the heck my imagination was supposed to land.
♦ Frobisher is a bad boy, yet an interesting character because he operates on such an underhanded level. He is also witty and charming. I want to know what he’ll get up to next.
♦ Frobisher’s discovery of the partial Adam Ewing journal was an exciting connection, but we didn’t learn anything more.
♦ I love the quote: “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.”
Phew! What an exhilarating start! After the first two sections we’ve got different characters in different time periods, some mysterious connections and plot threads. Where is it all going? What does it all mean? And more importantly, what have I gotten myself into?
Share your thoughts with me on Cloud Atlas!