I’m glad I read Cloud Atlas. Despite, maybe because of, the cleverness of the structure, I doubt it succeeded all that well. I’m about as confused as most other readers. But the prose was magnificent. The author’s ability to capture a believable tone in the disparate eras and personalities was remarkable. Each story was entertaining. I often felt while reading that David Mitchell is a genius and this book was over my head. Even though my inability to grasp much of Mitchell’s magnificent vision may be as much his failure as mine, I was happily carried along by his prose. Some sentences were so perfect and beautiful I could hardly let go of them.
While reading I was reminded of one of the happy days spent at Seattle’s downtown art museum with my granddaughter, then fifteen. We had been waiting when the doors were unlocked in the morning and now they had locked up behind us at dusk. She said, “I love being here because when I come out it feels like I have new eyes.”
There are books that give me that ‘new eyes’ sensation although I can’t articulate yet why this is so with Cloud Atlas.
When a book is as dense with allusion as this one I am slow to grasp why I enjoyed it, and perhaps it is only the writer’s extraordinary facility with words. But I think it is more than that even though I may be among the deluded insisting that the emperor has clothes. Still, this was one of those rare books that will stay with me until I understand why it is haunting me.