After Sonika found out that I still had not read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell even after her numerous recommendations and the fact that the book had been sitting on my shelf for a year, she threatened me in a comment IN ALL CAPS. So afraid was I that she would continue to type at me IN ALL CAPS FOREVER that I immediately decided I needed to push through this book and discover what all the UPPERCASE was about.
The truth was I had begun Cloud Atlas a few times and had difficulty getting past the first chapter, as 19th century diaries aren’t my forte. I was told I needed to push through this part and it would get much better- and this proved to be infinitely true. In fact, I would almost recommend that some readers skip the first chapter immediately, with only the knowledge that the guy in the second chapter finds the diary of chapter one, and go back and read the first chapter after they’ve gotten into the book. The reason I would say this is that I would hate to see people with less tenacity miss out on such a great book.
Cloud Atlas has six main characters at different points in time, all of whom are connected to each other. A great review of it was written by A.S. Byatt, which can fill you in on more of the details of these characters. She notes, “Each [part] has a character with a birthmark like a comet, as though they might be different incarnations of the same soul or different forms of the same cloud of molecules, as we all are.”
As an English major, this book blew my mind and made me want to write at least 10 different essays on it; the themes, symbolism and allusions to other writers are amazing. This was the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to end, and that I also had a desire to begin again immediately to keep putting the pieces together.
Sonika said that an ex-asshole in her life thought the book was about how horrible humans are and their dark nature. While there is the theme of power struggles throughout every novella, and commentary on human nature, I had a completely different take on the book. Maybe I’ve been watching too many medical dramas on TV lately, but I thought everyone who has ever been afraid that no one will remember them or that they haven’t made a difference in the world, and/or is faced with the possibility of living or dying alone should read this book, and know that the world will know they were here, and parts of their lives and themselves will touch others in the lives to come.
One of my favorite paragraphs of the book mentions the title (it is in the vernacular of one character):
I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o’ that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.
I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s a fantastic journey of a read and most definitely worthy of saying to people GO READ IT NOW in all capital letters.