During the A to Z Challenge I’m writing about books that were important to me in some way, and the letter G is not for the ghostwriting business, but for a book titled after it… Though it’s not about ghostwriters, and by its end, the title reveals its meaning. But shhh! I’m not spoiling it.
I first heard of David Mitchell when his book, “number9dream” was released in Polish. It was set in Japan, so I got interested in it, but because of the odd transcription of the Japanese names, I couldn’t get into it, and finally gave up. Still, when the next book came out, I decided to give it a go. And it was one of the most interesting and thrilling reads.
“Ghostwritten” is not a typical novel, but rather a series of short stories, one per chapter, written from various points of views and various styles. Each has their own protagonist, each has their own flavor, and as they span across a century, at first they seem quite a random collection.
Then, page by page, the reader starts discovering small and seemingly unimportant details that connect all those stories in a careful web of dependencies. Not all of them are obvious at first, some are nothing more but mentions in passing, made during conversations, some are subtle cameo appearances of the characters from other stories… Some are to be discovered only two or three stories later. All show the author’s skill in putting a complex puzzle together.
Of course, “Ghostwritten” could be read with less attention to such details, and every single story in it would still carry enough weight, thought, and emotion, but the small discoveries made along the way and putting the bigger picture together, brings both satisfaction and appreciation for what the author did.
With Mitchell, we travel around the world and through time, through genres, and through aspects of human nature, and each piece of the journey is a literary feast. When I was leaving for Ireland, with my luggage limited, this was one of the three fiction books I brought over with me, and I never regretted my choice. During my first months, when I went through the difficult phase of settling in a new country, I’ve re-read this book many times, and each time it offered me more, each time I looked at Mitchell’s mosaic and saw another detail that previously escaped my attention.
And even though I haven’t touched the book in years, it was an obvious choice to take it with me to the States too. And as much as I’m curious to read “Ghostwritten” in its original language, I can’t seem to part with my precious Polish edition of the books. Funny enough, I’ve never got around to reading any other book by this author even though they’re all said to be excellent. And when I think about it, I wonder, whether it’s because I fear they’ll make “Ghostwritten” less special to me?
I might not be mad about literary and style experiments, yet “Ghostwritten” charmed me not only with the stories it told, but also with its style and structure. As if the author made a perfect mix of all the component that make a great book and a worthwhile read. I can think of few more books with so intricate structures (and some titles will be mentioned in other A to Z posts), but “Ghostwritten” was the first, and therefore most memorable.
And do you have books that you value not only for their story, but also how the story is told in terms of the unique style and the plot’s construction?