is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped
artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window
onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the
war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen
foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious
merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons
comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in
the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy
fiancée back in Holland.
Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito
Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s
powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur
until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully
broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one
cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his
very life?” Download and start listening now!