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Black Swan Green: A Novel by David Mitchell

Black Swan Green: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2007)

by David Mitchell

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4,5391931,546 (3.99)401
Title:Black Swan Green: A Novel
Authors:David Mitchell
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2007), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:la home, already read, read in 2007

Work details

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (2006)

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» See also 401 mentions

English (184)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (193)
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
Black Swan Green: A Novel by David Mitchell ( )
  valentinbru | Oct 2, 2018 |
There is something about a well written coming-of-age novel that grabs hold of your ‘young soul’ and gives it a good healthy massage- breathing it to life again.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell did this for me.
It takes us to the Worcestershire backwater of Black Swan Green, (there are no swans on the green - local joke) and a young Jason Taylor struggling through his thirteenth year. On the surface there is nothing extraordinary about Jason, his middle class family consists of mum, dad and big sister Julia, who refers to him as ‘Thing’. He has a group of, if not popular, at least acceptable friends that try their best not to slide down the popularity ladder. And life is about not falling into the abyss that stretches between childhood and adolescence. Not an easy task with a stammer that insists on strangling your throat just when you need your voice, a family that seems to be crumbling under its own weight, and a group of school bullies cruel enough to put your teeth on edge.
Set in the early 80’s of Thatcher’s England and seen through Jason’s young eyes, an immensely clear picture of village life unfolds and lures you in. I found it utterly engrossing and surprisingly stimulating. Many times I shared Jason’s frustration and fear, something that is imperative for me while reading a book. I need to care about the characters and the outcomes of their actions.

Jason stores a few secrets throughout this book, but how he manages his stammer is just brilliant. He gives it the name, ‘Hangman’, and a personality, which helps in his battle to outwit it. He is not always successful, but that is the nature of the struggle, sometimes he wins, sometimes Hangman does. This is fantastic writing, and I was completely captivated by this exchange. I suppose I could relate to this on a personal level as my father had a debilitating stutter. As a child I just accepted it has part of him, but as an adult I am aware how difficult it must have been for him growing up with such a malady.

This book is loaded with great school boy analogies like … ‘The staffroom’s like God. You can’t see it and live.’ Or ‘ …cigarette smoke billowed out like fog in Jack the Ripper’s London.’ And once you adjust to the apostrophe ridden dialogue, you find yourself constantly pulled back into those early high school years where every new day has the potential to send you to the moon or strike you down where you stand. It’s that basic and that complicated.
Sadly, Mitchell has lessened the impact produced by some of his more descriptive phrases by using them more than once. This is a pity as it took the shine off a little for me. It appears as though some of his chapters were off-springs of earlier short stories, which could explain this over sight. Something that surely could have been picked up during the editing process.

However, this was not enough to spoil the book for me and I was disappointed when Black Swan Green never made the cut for the ManBooker Prize. I was sure it would at the very least get shortlisted, but alas, my favourites seldom do, and it’s sad to think that this may result in some people passing it by. Don’t.
If you’re inclined to take the advice of a prolific (if not chronic) reader, put this book on your reading list. You’ll be pleased you did. ( )
  jody12 | Sep 3, 2018 |
A more subdued book than Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks. Very evocative, and full of delightful words (British school-kid slang and invented onomatopoeias). It reminded me maybe a bit too much of my own awkward adolescence. I also appreciated the references to Cloud Atlas (and, presumably, Number9Dream, though I haven't read that one yet -- its title shows up). That being said, nothing about this book really got to the core of me the way Cloud Atlas did. David Mitchell wrote this story well, but it didn't feel to me like a story that only he could have written. ( )
  wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
a year in the life of a boy in a small village in central England during the 80's, bullies, first love, family squabbles and the Falklands War. Enjoyed this quite a bit. Very "English" in the language that took me a bit to muddle thru, but not too bad.

A cow of an awkward pause mooed.
Art fabricated of the inarticulate is beauty ( )
  mahsdad | Apr 22, 2018 |
Three books later, I am not completely sold on David Mitchell. I enjoy his writing style, but his stories have something about them that I have a hard time really appreciating. This particular book is well written, but there is no real climax to the story. Each chapter acts more or less as a short story in the life of a 13 year old boy in England in the early 1980s. I appreciated the historical references, but the misery and bullying the kid goes through made it difficult for me to read. Maybe my problem is more personal and it brought me back to that awkward age in my own life, but this is not a book I will return to in the future. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
Fleshing out such elementary wisdom is what coming-of-age novels are about. No doubt, that label will make some grimace and others wax nostalgic, but this novel is OK with caressing its traditional parameters. It settles for the sparks of verisimilitude instead of the fireworks of reinvention, while transmitting the uncomfortably comfortable sensation of smacking into the participants in one’s young life.
Mitchell is so good at inhabiting other voices that halfway through his ambitious "Cloud Atlas" (2004) — the characters include a 19th-century traveler in the Chatham Islands and a genetically engineered slave in a futuristic Korean dystopia — I began to suspect that Mitchell himself might actually be a noncorpum, a spirit who has commandeered the body of a young Englishman to type out its books.

Anxious, perhaps, about being mistaken for a supernatural being, Mitchell set himself a different sort of challenge in his brilliant new novel, "Black Swan Green." The book, set almost exclusively in a village of that name in quiet, provincial Worcestershire, follows 13-year-old Jason Taylor through 13 months, each folded into a storylike chapter.

. . . In Jason, Mitchell creates an evocative yet authentically adolescent voice, an achievement even more impressive than the ventriloquism of his earlier books.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mitchell, Davidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heyborne, KirbyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smet, Arthur deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812974018, Paperback)

From the author of Cloud Atlas, now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:26 -0400)

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Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor comes of age in 1982 in what is for him the sleepiest village in Worcestershire, experiencing first cigarettes, first kisses, and first deaths.

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