Ghostwritten is David Mitchell’s debut novel and it is a very David
Mitchell-novel. He quite often writes short stories that he links together
somehow. This one has nine stories and they are sort of vaguely connected to
each other. Some only with like a phone call, some with more of a substantial
connection. It follows a cult member responsible for the mustard gas attacks on
the Japanese subway, one is a jazz-enthusiast in Tokyo, one is a crooked
British lawyer in Hong Kong, one is an elderly woman running a tea shack in
China, one is a transmigrating spirit in Mongolia, a gallery attendant in
Russia, a musician and ghostwriter in London, an Irish physicist, and a late
night radio DJ in Manhattan.
I liked it. I feel like it showed that it was Mitchell’s first novel. He
has as I mentioned done the same type of story telling later, in both Cloud
Atlas and the Bone Clocks. I feel like he does it more successfully in the
later books, some of the connections in this novel were a bit more tenuous,
although not all of them, some were very deep and really well fleshed out. I
feel like he might have been experimenting slightly and wasn’t completely sure
of how to do it properly. They become more and more connected throughout the
novel though, which I liked.
Mitchell has this thing where he puts characters from one book as a
minor character into another book. In this book adult Neal Brose is a corrupt
lawyer, and in Black Swan Green young Neal Brose is one of the kids sort of
bullying the main character. Mitchell also mentions a book editor who is a main
character in Cloud Atlas. Again I am sort of struck by that and I wonder how he
plans it out. It can’t just be that he just picks a random name, he must have
planned these things out pretty seriously. I really like it, and I like it when
I notice them. I like when they mention a name, and I’m like, hang on, he’s in
Cloud Atlas. I’m a total nerd by the way, if that wasn’t clear.
I like the way he structures his stories, and how different the voices
are. He writes completely different people and as they should, their voices are
different and they are just, wow. It’s really impressive, and he must really
sketch out his novels and ideas. He also sort of writes in different genres,
which is very cool.
I think the Mongolian spirit flying around was my favourite story. It
was so weird and out there. I also enjoyed the first story, which is the cult
member who has carried out the saran gas attack on the Tokyo underground. He was
just so creepy and so weird. I don’t know how cult members are, but it felt
like he managed to really put himself into the head of a cult member. The
arrogance, and the hatred he has for other people, and his absolute assurance
that he has done the right thing by killing all these people, was so
disturbing. He was so awful. Gah.
I also really liked the way Mitchell wrote the gallery attendant in the
Russian story. I can’t remember her name. She was so naïve and so dumb, and she
was so annoyingly sure of her shitty boyfriend. Like, he might be a violent,
controlling, psychotic drug addict, but he loves her, so he is perfect. She
infuriated me so much. It was great.
I really enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favourite Mitchell book. It’s very
him, but he has really grown since then, and it was interesting to see where he
started the way he writes.