The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellI was sucked into this book the way I remember being sucked into books when I was young. It is like a 19th century novel updated to current tastes, but not completely: it is very talky as old novels are. But I liked that. It has one fairly gruesome thread which may offend some people. The main characters especially are fully developed and complicated and nuanced. The hero is a true hero, though a quiet one, as is the heroine.I should add that it takes place at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century mostly off Nagasaki. Mitchell handles these historical cultures without (as far as I can tell) resorting to stereotypes.
Portrayals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, replite with filth and smells and dirty bodies, are, I expect pretty accurate. I like having characters who are so richly drawn and so unAmerican in their hygiene. But even more important is the rich humanity, complexity, duplicity and sometimes cruelty of these representatives of such disparate cultures as the Dutch, the English and the Japanese.