number9dream: a review
in all lower-case
number9dream is as strange and captivating as the unusual title would suggest. Our protagonist is awkward, gawky Eiji Miyake, lately moved to Tokyo in search of the father he has never known. This isn’t your average quirky coming-of-age story, though.
Well, for one thing, this was my third Mitchell, so I was excepting to be weirded out to some extent. If you’ve ever read him, you know how it is: stories start out relatively normal, then suddenly: boom! Mind blown!
I expected to be dragged into the story kicking and screaming. I expected beautiful descriptions. I expected realistic characters. I expected something awful to happen to babies.
So, how was it?
In a word: excellent. I was dragged into the story kicking and screaming. There were some beautiful descriptions - I posted one particularly enchanting bit about a study crammed full of “nine lifetimes worth of books”. The characters were realistic and well-drawn. Awful things did happen to babies. And various other people.
As with both Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, the story didn’t immediately draw me in. It took me a few chapters to really get into Eiji’s skin, which only really happened when the first Anju part came up. And then bowling. However, should you begin to read and experience some impatience, please hold tight. I promise the ride is going to be fantastic.
One minor pet peeve were the Goatwriter stories, peppered into the second half of the story. These are mostly unconnected to the action, which threw me off just enough to be slightly annoyed. Some of them are fabulous though, and the archaic language may well charm you.
The complicated relationship between Eiji and his mother, and his parallel search for his father, are interesting themes which were very relatable. The ending of that plotline exactly suited my ideas of narrative flow, so I was thorougly satisfied on that head.
Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this novel.
Mitchell fans. For those of you who haven’t read anything by him yet: if you are into Murakami and/or Atwood, this will probably suit you.
If you are looking for your first Mitchell novel, I would probably recommend checking Cloud Atlas out first.
The plot and language, while not contrived, are certainly complex enough to satisfy the most demanding of readers. For the same reason, I would probably not recommend it to “light” or beginning readers.