After YouKneeK posted her review and having a lively discussion with her about the book (and the movie), I realized that I was fuzzy about the details in the novel. A situation I couldn´t tolerate. A reread was required and I ultimately did it. And it was a great experience.
It is hard to say something about the story without giving away too much. There are six different stories, told by six different narrators: a lawyer in the midst of the 19th century, a composer in 1931, a journalist in the year 1975, a publisher in the beginning of the 21th century, a genetic clone in a near future and a goat herder in a post apocalyptic setting. The common denominator for these six people is their struggle for humanity, their personal freedom and how their decisions influence other people along the way.
What makes this novel extraordinary is its structure and all these connections that run through the narrative. Some of these connections are obvious, others are more subtle and especially the latter ones are harder to catch and they justify to actually read this novel for a second, third or fourth time. I got a different insight into the novel reading it for the second time and it was easier for me to relate to the characters this time around (I especially struggled with the Cavendish and Zachary chapter the first time I read the book).
I adore this novel and the message that the story conveys. Cloud Atlas is one fabulous piece of storytelling. A favorite of mine and I can highly recommend it.
I´m putting some of my thoughts behind a spoiler tag. If you haven´t read the book you shouldn´t be looking here, because there are some major spoilers ahead:
- Reincarnation is a topic throughout the novel. The reincarnated souls have a birthmark, shaped like a comet. Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Somni and Meronym have this birthmark. In the Cavendish chapter a birthmark has been mentioned, but the location of it doesn´t fit and we don´t know, what his birthmark looks like. And I don´t know how he can be the reincarnated soul of Luisa, because he has to be alive around the same time as Luisa. I think that Timothy is the reincarnation of another soul, possibly Reverend Horrux and Vivian Ayrs. These three are exploiting other people and if we are going into the future, Unanimity and the Kona are basically doing the same.
In Adam Ewing´s chapter the birthmark hasn´t been mentioned. Either Adam has it or Autua. I actually haven´t made up my mind about this one, but for me Adam does fit better.
- I like how one story is mirrored in another one:
- Adam Ewing – Zachary: Both characters have to fight pure evil (Dr. Goose, Old Georgie) and have to overcome their own fears and preconceptions to survive. Both are not alone, having someone by their side. Without these people they would ultimately have parished.
- Robert Frobisher – Somni-451: Both have to fight for their creation (Frobisher´s Sextett, Somni´s catechism). After finishing it, their lives work has been fulfilled and both sacrifice themselves for it. Both characters have someone to confide in (Sixsmith and the Archivist), so these two aren´t alone either.
- Luisa Rey – Timothy Cavendish: Both have to overcome oppression by society (Luisa: feminism, Timothy: behaviour towards the elderly). Both are getting into trouble trying to change their situation. They are getting help from other people, but in the end they are both alone. Yes, this theory is a farfetched one but I can´t shake the feeling that these two stories are telling the same thing.