David Mitchell comes home - to England, 1982, and the cusp of adolescence. Jason Taylor is 13, doomed to be growing up in the most boring family in the deadest village ("Black Swan Green") in the dullest county (Worcestershire) in the most tedious nation (England) on earth. And he stammers. 13 chapters, each as self-contained as a short story, ...
David Mitchell comes home - to England, 1982, and the cusp of adolescence. Jason Taylor is 13, doomed to be growing up in the most boring family in the deadest village ("Black Swan Green") in the dullest county (Worcestershire) in the most tedious nation (England) on earth. And he stammers. 13 chapters, each as self-contained as a short story, follow 13 months in his life as he negotiates the pitfalls of school and home and contends with bullies, girls and family politics. In the distance, the Falklands conflict breaks out; close at hand, the village mobilises against a gypsy camp. And through Jason's eyes, we see what he doesn't know he knows - and watch unfold what will make him wish his life had been as uneventful as he had believed. Vividly capturing the mood of the times - high unemployment, Cold War politics and the sunset of agrarian England - this is at once a portrait of an era and of an age: the black hole between childhood and teenagerdom.
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Superbly written, wonderfully understood, Black Swan Green opens for an international audience the trials and tribulations of a boy between his 13th and 14th year. He, along with his family members, straddles this year, each of them changed by their having lived through it.
Apr 3, 2007
Pensive, brooding, hopeful
Broodingly and sympathetically written without losing its sense of humour. Throughout the book you could not help but wait for Jason to realise his own, and when he does, you fight the urge to shout 'Huzzah' . Should become required reading in all classrooms. It gives a good, long look at oneself. Not only a coming of age for boys but certainly for any gender, at any age.
Apr 3, 2007
An indulgence a very English eighties
This is strictly for an English audience or someone wishing to know about and english childhood in the eighties. Mitchell takes us back to simpler times of Rubiks cubes and street fights (possibly based on his own life) and takes us through the traumas of a stuttering child. Everyone can associate with the alienation Mitchell describes very well. It is, however , a purely indulgent book rather like reading someones personal diary.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-01-02 For his fourth novel, two-time Booker Prize finalist Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, etc.) turns to material most writers plumb in their first: the semiautobiographical, first-person coming-of-age story. And after three books with notably complex narrative structure, far-flung settings, and multiple viewpoints, he has chosen one narrator, 13-year-old Jason Taylor, to tell the story of one year (1982) in one town, Worcestershire's Black Swan Green. Jason starts with the January day he accidentally smashes his late grandfather's irreplaceable Omega Seamaster DeVille watch and ends with Christmas, which, because of intervening events, becomes the last he spends in this sleepy Midlands hamlet. The gorgeously revealed cast includes Jason's brilliant older sister, sarcastic mother, blustering dad and a spectrum of bullies and mates. Jason's nemesis is an intermittent, fluctuating stammer: some days he must avoid words beginning with N; other days, S. Once he is exposed, the bullies taunt him mercilessly; there is no respite for the weak or disabled in Black Swan Green nor, as the realities of Thatcher's grim reign begin to take their toll, in England writ large. How Jason and his family navigate this year of change is the emotional core of this rich novel, but the virtuoso chapter is "The Bridle Path," wherein Jason, alone for one delicious day, searches for a tunnel fabled to have been dug by the Romans in order to rout the Vikings. What he finds along the way captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-06-05 Any "whingers" out there won't feel comfortable in Mitchell's new novel of burgeoning and cruel adolescent boys in the rural but hardly pastoral England village of Black Swan Green. Heyborne, who performed one of the characters in the audiobook of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, embodies the voice of 13-year-old Jason Taylor to perfection. His timbre is youthful and a tad reluctant, as might be expected of a teenager with a stammer who wants desperately to fit in with his rowdy friends. Jason's friends sound too much like Jason himself, but since they are viewed from Jason's perspective and since boys in a clique do tend to sound alike, the choices Heyborne makes are not problematic. The 1980s Worcestershire slang is more challenging, however. The addition of the letter "y" to words to form adjectives is somewhat "educationy," but it is sometimes hard to work through regionalisms that one cannot see in order to place them better. Although Mitchell's novel doesn't lives up to Lord of the Flies, which it derives from, Heyborne's performance is both compelling and compassionate, and the audio is entertaining and highly rewarding. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 2). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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