Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green

3.97 (28,385 ratings by Goodreads)
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By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas - Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize Selected by Time as One of the Ten Best Books of the Year - A New York Times Notable Book - Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post Book World, The Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News, and Kirkus Reviews - A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist - Winner of the ALA Alex Award - Finalist for the Costa Novel Award 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 emigre 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. Praise for Black Swan Green "[David Mitchell has created] one of the most endearing, smart, and funny young narrators ever to rise up from the pages of a novel. . . . The always fresh and brilliant writing will carry readers back to their own childhoods. . . . This enchanting novel makes us remember exactly what it was like."--The Boston Globe "[David Mitchell is a] prodigiously daring and imaginative young writer. . . . As in the works of Thomas Pynchon and Herman Melville, one feels the roof of the narrative lifted off and oneself in thrall."--Time "[A] brilliant new novel . . . In Jason, Mitchell creates an evocation yet authentically adolescent voice."--The New York Times Book Review "Alternately nostalgic, funny and heartbreaking."--The Washington Post "Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye--and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "This book is so entertainingly strange, so packed with activity, adventures, and diverting banter, that you only realize as the extraordinary novel concludes that the timid boy has grown before your eyes into a capable young man."--Entertainment Weekly From the Hardcover more

Product details

  • Paperback | 294 pages
  • 139.7 x 205.74 x 17.78mm | 181.44g
  • Random House Trade
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0812974018
  • 9780812974010
  • 89,354

Review quote

"Mitchell's rendering of time and place in this new book has a warm and lived-in feel. . . . [W]hat Mitchell has set out to do here - to capture the flux of youth, and to dazzle the reader with everyday, awkward human interaction rather than clever narrative conceits - is risky and rewarding. . . . Mitchell's obvious efforts to please the reader work wonderfully, and the novel is never less than tremendously engaging. . . ." --"Toronto Star" "Warmly personal, funny and as matter-of-fact and grounded as [Mitchell's] other books are enigmatic and lofty, Black Swan Green has a strong autobiographical flavour. . . . An easy and enjoyable read, Black Swan Green is at its most compelling when the dialogue is fraught with tension. . . . [I]t offers more in the way of intimacy [than Mitchell's other work]: It offers a friendship with its precocious and well-meaning young narrator that persists well beyond the last word." --"The Globe and Mail" Praise for David Mitchell "David Mitchell entices his readers on to a rollercoaster. . . . Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end. . .a complete narrative pleasure that is rare. . . .Powerful and elegant. . . . He isn't afraid to jerk tears or ratchet up suspense - he understands that's what we make stories for. . . . He plays delicious games with other people's voices, ideas and characters." --A. S. Byatt, "The Guardian "(UK) "Audacious, exhilarating. . . . A formidable creation. . . . [Mitchell's] brilliance takes one's breath away in a manner not unlike a first experience of Chartres or the Duomo. It is a pleasure to sit inside such an edifice, and to marvel. Repeat visits are in order. Each time, a little more structure is revealed. Each time, the space grows less intimidating. Until, finally, it is just a book, one that you are reading with amazement and delight." --"The Globe and Mail" Praise for "Cloud Atlas" "Cloud Atlas is a head rush, both action-packshow more

About David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell translated from the Japanese the internationally bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children. From the Hardcover more

Rating details

28,385 ratings
3.97 out of 5 stars
5 30% (8,494)
4 44% (12,382)
3 21% (5,977)
2 4% (1,236)
1 1% (296)

Our customer reviews

The town of Black Swan Green in 1982 provides the setting for David Mitchell's adolescent coming of age story that might just be autobiographical. Jason Taylor is thirteen years old and serves as narrator of the story that describes one year in his life, a year full of possibilities and loaded with teenage angst as well. Jason is an aspiring poet who uses the pen name Eliot Bolivar to conceal his identity as his poetry is published in the local parish magazine. He becomes a regular contributor. This is something that no one at school can discover or his life would be even more hellish than it already is. He is a boy trying desperately to fit in and making a miserable job of it. He longs to be a boy called by his first name, like the other "cool" kids. In actuality, he's called by his last name and lumped in with other boys also determined to be unworthy. Below him are those boys called by made up names, like Squelch. This three tier system exists solely for the amusement of those in the top tier, who regularly bully those below them. Jason's position within the system deteriorates in time until he's called Maggot and pushed to the breaking point. Contributing to Jason's despair and making him a prime target of the others is the fact that he stutters. He has named the thing that won't allow the words to come out properly "Hangman." Even his teachers contribute to this by forcing him to recite long passages aloud. His sessions with his speech therapist provide relief for him, a place where he can relax so much that his stuttering disappears, making it that much harder to treat. As if all this isn't enough for one teenager to endure, Jason's parents fight continually and are heading towards a divorce and Jason has a crush on one of the cool girls, who is completely unaware of him. The climax of the story occurs when Jason determines that he has to show these bullies that he's not afraid of them. Stick it out for a little while and they'll back off. There's no fun in bullying someone and getting no response. Throughout the book, Mitchell's prose shines. He throws out one zinger after another, page after page: "A cow of an awkward pause mooed." (Page 52) "A brick of loneliness is reaching terminal velocity inside me." (Page 166) "Sunlight on waves is drowsy tinsel." (Page 173) "Questions aren't questions. Questions are bullets" and "Their arguments are speed chess these days." (Page 223 and 224 referring to his parents' fights) "Poems are lenses, mirrors and x-ray machines." (Page 224) The writing is divine, the story is top notch, the young narrator is so vulnerable and likable that you want to take him home and protect him from all the nastiness in the world. Mitchell is a marvelous storyteller and I look forward to reading more of his books. Highly more
by Bonnie Renzi
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