A “Cloud Atlas” Book Analysis

Jennifer Mendez Literary Analysis

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas has won several awards including the British Book Award for Literary Fiction, and the Rudy and Judy Book of the Year. Originally published in 2004 by Random House, the film adaptation by the same name was released in 2012. The author himself has lived in Italy, Japan, and Ireland, to name a few places. It clearly shows in the plot of Cloud Atlas, which is composed of six independent storylines, intertwined together at the very end.

Based upon all this information, one would expect Cloud Atlas to be jaw-dropping. Readers went into it expecting adventure and an addicting plotline.

But is that what they really found?

Cloud Atlas Book Summary

Mitchell first takes readers to 1850, with an American notary voyaging home to California. Oddly enough, he’s being treated for a rare species of brain parasite. Then, the plot suddenly jumps to 1931 Belgium, with a bisexual composer who suddenly finds himself in the house of a Maestro.

Following that is the West Coast, 1970s, with the troubled reporter by the name of the Louisa Ray. She gets caught in a web of murder and greed. From there, readers are taken to present-day England, with vanity publisher—Timothy. He finds himself in trouble with one of his clients, who just so happens to be a gangster.

Next up is a Korean superstate where Neo-Capitalism has gone haywire. Finally, there is a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii, during the last days of history.

As if this isn’t enough, the narrative goes back through the story in reverse to it starting point. It connects the characters, intertwining fates and showcasing how souls drift across time, connecting everything.

Praises for David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas Book

The most common complaint and praise regarding Cloud Atlas is just as intertwined as the plot lines themselves. Put simply, it has a way of starting off boringly, only to grip most readers. Just when you were considering putting the novel down for good, it apparently starts to get rather interesting. We say “apparently” because all in all, the book wasn’t the best, and we made it to the end.

The novel is, however, ambitious, tackling six storylines and attempting to connect them into a sort of profound meaning. Mitchell is a master at literary ventriloquism adopting a unique narrative voice for each of these storylines.

Why Critics Don’t Like Cloud Atlas

Unfortunately, Cloud Atlas takes on a little too much. The stories aren’t strong enough to stand on their own, but it seems Mitchell is utterly convinced of their addictive properties. The connection at the end, which is supposed to connect everything and make it worthwhile, just isn’t profound enough. It seems to demand a lot of attention from the readers, but it provides little reward. It is almost as if David Mitchell is in love with his stories and characters so much so that he has become blind to the boredom that trails throughout the novel.

The Verdict

If you were expecting adventure, interesting characters, deep meaningful storylines, and memorable narrative, then Cloud Atlas could be for you. The novel aims to have these qualities, but it falls short for the majority of readers. It is, however, ambitious and seeks to entertain you through six different stories. It is certainly not a book you should overlook, but it’s also not worthy of your top shelf. All in all, we did give Cloud Atlas about a seven out of 10. Mitchell’s prose and literary ventriloquism are commendable in their own right. Used with a more cohesive, reader-friendly plot line, Mitchell would have a gem on his hands.

About the Author

Jennifer Mendez

Jennifer Mendez has brought insightful articles to Literative.com. From author interviews to how literature meets gaming to expert insight into tools and writing processes, her dedication to helping our author community is quite inspiring. You can find more of her writing at jennifermendez.com.