David Mitchell’s most recent novel places the reader at a historical and geographical hinge-point: 1799, Nagasaki. Jacob de Zoet is an idealistic young clerk in the Dutch East India Company trading with Japan. Foreigners are forbidden to set foot on the soil of the Closed Empire, but when Jacob meets the beautiful trainee-medic Orito it becomes increasingly hard to resist Japan’s exotic lure. And the world is changing – commerce and European sea power may prove a tipping point, anyway…

Hodder & Stoughton/paperback/£7.99/9780340921586

Dan Eltringham