Read Black Swan Green by David Mitchell Kirby Heyborne Online


From highly acclaimed two-time Man Booker finalist David Mitchell comes a glorious, sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.In his previous novels, David Mitchell dazzled us with his narrative scope and his virtuosic command of multiple voices and stories. The New York Times Book Review said, “Mitchell is, clearly, aFrom highly acclaimed two-time Man Booker finalist David Mitchell comes a glorious, sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.In his previous novels, David Mitchell dazzled us with his narrative scope and his virtuosic command of multiple voices and stories. The New York Times Book Review said, “Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across [Cloud Atlas’s] every page.” Black Swan Green inverts the telescopic vision of Cloud Atlas to track a single year in what is, for 13-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the 13 chapters create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. Pointed, funny, profound, left field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest yet most accessible achievement to date.Excerpt from Black Swan Green:Picked-on kids act invisible to reduce the chances of being noticed and picked on. Stammerers act invisible to reduce the chances of being made to say something we can’t. Kids whose parents argue act invisible in case we trigger another skirmish. The Triple Invisible Boy, that’s Jason Taylor. Even I don’t see the real Jason Taylor much these days, ’cept for when we’re writing a poem, or occasionally in a mirror, or just before sleep. But he comes out in woods. Ankley branches, knuckly roots, paths that only might be, earthworks by badgers or Romans, a pond that’ll ice over come January, a wooden cigar box nailed behind the ear of a secret sycamore where we once planned a treehouse, birdstuffedtwigsnapped silence, toothy bracken, and places you can’t find if you’re not alone. Time in woods’s older than time in clocks, and truer....

Title : Black Swan Green
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Black Swan Green Reviews

  • Jenn(ifer)
    2019-02-21 03:40

    I’m about to start gushing over this book now, so look out. I may end up stammering my way through this review, but if I do, just consider it a tribute to Jason Taylor.So Black Swan Green. This is the first David Mitchell book I’ve read but I assure you, it will not be the last. I loved everything about this book. I RELATED to everything about this book. True, I have no idea what it’s like to be a 13 year old British boy growing up in the 80’s, yet there is something so universal about this character that anyone who has gone through adolescence can probably relate to in some way or another. Me? I related a lot. For one thing, when I was 13 I was a total tree climbing, fort making, trouble finding tomboy. Not exactly the makings of a “popular” teenage girl. And I was PAINFULLY shy. I remember that feeling of just wanting to make myself as invisible as possible so that no one noticed me. Because noticing me would undoubtedly lead to ridicule in some nasty form or another. But Jason takes his ribbing in stride. He’s a good kid. A likable kid. A kid you find yourself rooting for. You want him to get the girl! You want him to beat the crap out of the jerkface bullies! You want him to succeed!Jason Taylor is ACE. David Mitchell is ACE. Black Swan Green, that’s right, ACE!I wish I could remember all of the glorious passages from this book, but I borrowed the dang thing from the library, and they don’t take kindly to people underlining things or scribbling in the margins. I jotted this bit down on a scrap of paper:~ Jealous and sweet, this music was, sobbing and gorgeous, muddy and crystal. But if the right words existed the music wouldn’t need to.Sigh. I didn’t want this book to end. I think it’s the type of book that will serve you well to read at a leisurely pace. Give yourself time to let the story marinate; allow Jason Taylor to touch your heart. You’ll be glad you did.

  • s.p
    2019-03-01 02:59

    'The world unmakes stuff faster than people can make it.'Month by month our lives spiral forth into the future, with each moment shaping who we are and who we will become. It is no wonder that the pivotal years of adolescence, the stage of development classified by Erik Erikson as the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage, is fertile land for novels (if the nutrients of such land has been dried up from overuse of such topics is up for debate). Mitchell’s Black Swan Green examines this tumultuous period of development, drawing from his own experiences at times, to track the to-and-fro of the formation of an identity caught in the gale storm winds of external pressures from society, politics and family drama. While this may seem like something we have all read before, Mitchell manages to deliver it through one of his unique, multi-faceted methods and posing this novel as the metafictional chapter of his oeuvre. The structure of this book is rather exciting, with each chapter functioning nearly as a stand-alone short story, ordered chronologically throughout one year of Jason Taylor’s life. Starting and ending in January, we watch the progression of Taylor’s identity during the trying stage when social cliques are formed (when one year everyone of the same gender in a class attends their peers birthday and the next year that person who invited you to their birthday won’t even acknowledge you), and less-than-ideal physical or social traits make outliers of many youths. The pressures to fit in and the aggression of those who already do cause Jason’s confidence to falter, demonstrating how easily we let outside forces shape what we are inside. Some of these forces are negative, yet there are many examples of positive reinforcement in the novel. What works best about the structure is that each individual chapter has Jason’s personal path juxtaposed with that of a larger social theme. The family fallout, written with such scathing accuracy to demonstrate a failing marriage and shallow bickering that ensues, is detailed alongside the Falklands conflict, both being summed up beautifully by the sister in her explanation of a Pyrrhic victory during a family dinner. Another prime example is the juxtaposition of Jason’s outsider status with his peers and the hatred towards the gypsy camp that moves just outside of town.Each one of Mitchell’s previous novels has a major point where he lifts up the hood and allows the reader to examine the engine driving his narrative. Cloud Atlas has the multiple allusions to it’s own structure, such as Frobisher explaining his sextet in a similar fashion as one would explain the novel, and number9dream had the wonderful ‘Goatwritter tales’ that explored Mitchell’s literary goals. In Black Swan Green we have his meeting with Madame Crommelynck's ¹ and her lessons on beauty and on being an artist. ‘If you are not truthful to the world about who and what you are, your art will stink of falseness,’ she instructs Jason. In effect, this novel is his truthful account of his life, exposing all his flaws, fears, failures and embarrassing moments in the name of truth and art. There is even a brief moment where the reader witnesses the creation of a rough draft for a previous chapter. The metafiction does not cease there, however, as this novel contains much of Mitchell’s own life, particularly his overcoming of his stammer. Ironically though, could it be seen as Mitchell still hiding behind false pretenses and using Jason as his mouthpiece, thus missing the point of Madame Crommelynck’s teachings? That, dear reader, is for you to decide.If each of his novels has a metafictionally-revealing section, this novel serves as the metafictional novel to his oeuvre. As much of BSG focuses on the dangers and consequences of people operating with a closed, or selfish mind, Mitchell shows how much of the hardships in our lives could be alleviated if people just took the time to understand each other, to shoulder the burden of taking the right path instead of the easy path that burns a lot of good people in the process. He shows how those with power, such as the city council, or the nation with the stronger army, or even just the popular kids at school, will always use such power to ensure those beneath them stay there. ‘I want to bloody kick this moronic bloody world in the bloody teeth over and over till it bloody understands that not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right.’This line from Jason echoes a message that permeates through all of Mitchell’s novels. In Cloud Atlas, the abuse of power is present is a primary theme in each of the novels stories, as well as in Ghostwritten to a lesser extent. Even Number9dream toys with the ideas of power and the struggle for it. It is as if Mitchell took the events from his own upbringing and inflated the lessons he learned to the larger scope of society and the overall human condition. It could even be argued that Mitchell’s own coming-of-age story was skewed and spun with larger literary themes into Number9dream, which further excuses him of his repeat visits to the bildungsroman theme. There are several common complaints about this novel, and each one admittedly valid, yet I felt this novel still accomplished the goals set out for it and not by overlooking these shortcomings, but by trying to further understand them. Mitchell often preempts his criticisms and addresses them within the novel. Cloud Atlas, in particular, has Mitchell ridiculing critics in general through his slimy Miles Finch character, and addresses those who would see the book as nothing but mere gimmick. While Jason Taylor is fleshed out wonderfully with a whole repitoir of English jargon and juvenile slang, the narrative is often delivered through lush descriptions, complex metaphors and an insight into his situations that come across as overly mature for a boy of 13. To assuage such criticisms, Jason is written to have a precocious sense of literature and poetry. While it never comes right out and says it, his talents are hinted at being prodigious, or just so enough to reach the attention of Madame Crommelynck who is said to have a sharp eye for extreme talent (she did see the genius behind the insanity in Frobisher in CA). The reader can choose to accept this argument or not, however, Mitchell does not stop there in his attempts at believability. Much of the lush description teeters into the territory of over-writing, something that a young, unfocused writer often clings to. It isn’t until the end of the novel that the supposed self-written tale of Jason Taylor is executed in crisper, well-executed prose to demonstrate that Taylor is beginning to finally come into his own as the purveyor of truthfulness that he has been taught to be mark of the true artist. Once again, the novel does rely on the acceptance of these techniques and this does not satisfy everyone. Then again, I may just be an apologist since I really do appreciate Mitchell hope for his success.Mitchell’s novel fall into a strange zone of literature that is both beneficial and problematic for him as an author. His novels are an interesting amalgamation of easily digestible plots, literary theory, fireworks and fantastic writing. This blend, which I have come to refer to as Literary Pulp, is most apparent in Cloud Atlas, and a further investigation into the terms implications can be found here ². Mitchell positions himself as a sort of literary gateway drug, pulling younger readers, or readers with more of an inclination towards plot-driven novels, into the wide wonderful wilderness of literature. Perhaps this is why I forgive some of his more ‘gimmicky’ techniques. The ‘mind-blowing’ big twists, ideas, structure or overall-appearances-of-texts type of gimmicks are something that really grabs many people, particularly those referenced a moment ago. Chuck Palahniuk reached fame in a similar fashion through attempting for the ‘mind blow’ and other gimmicks, and while he was an author that lead me into bigger, better authors such as Don DeLillo and Pynchon, he never had enough literary flavor of his own to keep my eye on him for very long. Mitchell comes across more like the overly excited professor that just wants you to love books as much as he does and is willing to sacrifice some of his literary merit with the higher brow to draw in a crowd of readers who would otherwise stay away from the higher brow literature. In Cloud Atlas, for example, someone who loved the Somni story is more or less instructed to seek out books like Brave New World while the Adam Ewing story borrows the style of Herman Melville to turn heads his way. Even in this book, Mitchell references many great writers such as T.S. Elliot or Chekov, references Madame Bovary (which he did in n9d as well) and offers a massive listening list of a wide variety of great musicians. This book would fits in nicely on a shelf for those who like higher literature, or would be just as at peace next to a book like The Perks of Being a Wallflower ³, however being an excellent gateway for someone of the latter category to continue a pursuit of literature. Mitchell’s Literary Pulp method is a great way of reaching out, but it does garner a great deal of negative criticism for doing just that. As someone who hopes to go on into teaching, I find Mitchell to be a useful example of how to get people excited about books. Now that he has achieved recognition, he was able to move away from the more gimmicky methods to write something more subdued such as BSG and Thousand Autumns. I think there is a bright horizon for Mitchell if he continues to grow and push forward.Although I read this book just over six months ago, it has not left my mind and recently I have spent a great deal of time fighting back the bleakness of the factory by over-analyzing this novel. Spending a year with Jason Taylor really endears the reader towards David Mitchell, as they quickly realize much of the stories are based on his own life. However, I would not recommend it as a first Mitchell read, seeing as it is a sort of commentary on the previous novels. Even if you disliked his earlier works, I would still recommend giving this novel a try, as it is a strong departure from his usual style. As the novel comes to a close, the reader sees life as a continuing spiral instead of something made of many beginnings and endings. It ends on the minor key, that angsty note that demands one final chord for completion and resolution, but Mitchell leaves the readers mind to fill that note in. We are left feeling things could get better, but to resolve everything would be to cheapen the story and to cheapen the actual course life takes. This is not a perfect novel, and has many aspects that leave a bad taste in the mouth of many well-read individuals (please browse GR, there are many with better tastes and insight than I that found a lukewarm reception in this book), yet I feel that Mitchell does an excellent job of covering his tracks. Simply put, and in the words of Jason Taylor, this book is ‘ace in the face!’.4.5/5¹ Readers of Cloud Atlas will remember her as Eva, the love interest of Robert Frobisher. Fans of CA are treated to an alternative perspective on Frobisher’s behavior and genius. Other characters that make a cameo in BSG are Neal Brose, of Ghostwritten, and Gwendolyn Bendincks, who stayed at the old folks home in CA.² Please forgive my shameful self-promotion, but it would be far too time/space consuming to revisit the argument in proper detail here. The ideas of Literary Pulp are also prominent in the Goatwritter section of n9d as well. ³ I in fact recommended this book to my sister after she finished that novel, citing many similarities between the two. Both deal with a coming-of-age, musical tastes, and overcoming personal hardships, yet BSG is accomplished without the melodramatic angst and emotion that teenagers seem to thrive on. This book is also similar to Murakami w/r/t the constant allusions to songs, the great Murakami being a major influence on Mitchell (what? This review and the footnotes have been a blatant rip-off of DFW? Surely you Jest)‘A Pyrrhic victory is one where you win, but the cost of winning is so high that it would’ve been better if you’d never bothered with the war in the first place. Useful word, isn’t it? So, Jace. Looks like we’re doing the dishes again.’

  • Greg
    2019-03-02 01:58

    I think it was the summer between eighth and ninth grades that I had an absolutely hellish summer camp experience.* For whatever reason I got branded as the person to pick on and just about everything that I did was turned into a series of 'jokes' at my expense. I haven't thought of this experience in quite sometime, it's sort of one of those things that I just don't dwell on, but it was one of those times that seriously fucked me up. Some of the taunting that Jason Taylor goes through in this book kind of reminded me of this particular time. The early 80's English world that the book takes place in is slightly different from my own experience though, maybe it's the British class thing, but the kids in this book fall into particular positions and there is little mobility out of being an insider or outsider. My own particular experience was that the people tormenting were people I considered friends who turned particularly nasty, and they would swing back to being friends and back to tormentors again. Thinking about many of my experiences growing up, I realize that a lot of kids I knew, especially neighborhood kids, my relationships with many of them were hazy blurs of being friendly, being at war, being friendly again, and maybe even being bullied by them. And I wonder why I've had no desire to ever seek out friends after I moved away from New Jersey.I had some mixed feelings doing into this book. Besides Cloud Atlas, none of David Mitchell's books have ever called to me. I mean, when I see or saw them for the first time and read what they are about I don't feel any desire to read them. But, I've enjoyed the two Mitchell books I've read. Lots of goodreads people I know just love him and they are generally people whose opinions I respect (or at least I like their opinions because their opinions line up with my opinions on many book related areas, and it's only natural to think that people who agree with you are smarter than the other philistines who don't agree with you about these sorts of things, right?). I had bought this from the Salvation Army a couple of years back and it's been sitting on my shelf, and it happened to be sitting on the bookshelf that was next in my sort of sporadic, 'pick a book from the next bookshelf / pile of books' so that I can read books I bought at various times, instead of just reading the books I've recently bought and ignoring the hundreds of old-unread books, and because Cloud Atlas was just released as a Major Motion Picture I thought I'd read some Mitchell and when I write a review I'd probably get some extra attention because Mitchell is kind of hot right now. So that is why I read the book. And I figured a coming of age story in his hands might be interesting. It was, but it was also nothing that I hadn't read before. The story is a year in the life of a kid growing up in the early 1980's. It's the year of the Falkland's conflict (war?), something I know very little that doesn't come from Crass lyrics and images ("How does it feel?"). It's the rise of Thatcher, and of continuing economic troubles in the UK. Actually all of this sounds like like a Crass album. Except that those things are all going on in the background, and it's about the more general thing of growing up, getting picked on by your peers, about trying to figure out how to do what is right / staying true to yourself and still fitting in with the cool kids (or at least not getting beat up by them). I probably liked the book more than my three star rating would make it seem. I think part of the problem was that I was expecting a more interesting narrative, or structure to the story from Mitchell. This was a fairly straight-forward coming of age story. Maybe there isn't a lot that can be done with this particular genre, but this book didn't feel like it really stood out from other movies and novels I've consumed. I think that my lowish star rating is also how I feel the book stands up to the other books of Mitchell's I've read, and as a kind of reaction to the gushing praise that is splashed all over the front and back cover of this book. This was one of the top ten books of the year by the New York Times? Really? Was it a slow year in literature? The last couple of chapters in the book didn't help save the book for me, either. I was already feeling like the book was nothing spectacular when this happened. I'll save spoiling anything, but things started to feel a little unrealistic for the way things had been going in the book. I'd probably recommend reading something by John Green if you want to read about precious slightly loser-ish teen boys navigating their adolescence. But there really isn't anything wrong with this book, it just never really did much for me though. *Summer camp experiences for my own edification1984 - One week away. Almost sent home for learning how the simple joy of making a blow torch using matches and aerosol bug spray. Forced to do some push-ups as punishment and got screamed at a lot by some jock asshole counselor. 1985 - I'm fairly certain I figured out how not to go to summer camp this year. 1986 - Went to the hellish summer camp for one week. Learned what a gang-bang was through an immature song my tent-mate sung constantly. Almost died rappelling and contracted food poisoning from eating raw chicken. Also spent most of the week in the pouring rain. Built character, I guess. 1987 - Went to the nice summer camp. Woke up every morning at around 5 AM to take field notes for a merit badge, discovered a beaver dam and watched a beaver swim around every morning. An enjoyable experience. Learned that I don't like boats at all and I have no skill in using them except for capsizing them. I also learned that playing a game where two teams fight each other in the water for control over a greased watermelon is stupid. I'm also inept at blowing up my clothes in the water. 1988 - Back to the hellish summer camp. I'm fairly certain that these two weeks are responsible for a host of my 'problems' of dealing with other people as a normal person. Swam a mile. Crashed a motor boat. Went on one of the worst trips ever. I guess this built character. 1989 - Last year of summer camp. Back to the nice camp. Almost stepped on a rattlesnake.

  • Manju
    2019-03-10 23:58

    I have a soft spot for coming of age books. So whenever I start a coming of age, I keep chanting, "please be good". I hate it when I don't like such story as I think they are beautiful, if written in right way, and perhaps one of the hardest kind to write. It's difficult to capture the emotions of an adolescent. It's such a tender age where kids are coming to terms to with life, when they try to fit in or hide away; when parents let them come out of their shadows and the brutal world is trying to teach them the hard realities of world. When they're clueless about whether to behave like an adult because everyone expect them to or be that carefree kid who don't give a damn about this big, bad world. Black Swan Green is story of 13 year old Jason Taylor. On the surface he is just an ordinary boy but as you get to know him, you find how hard he is trying to be accepted in group of popular kids. He knows they're bad, they're bullies but still he wants to be a part of that gang because it'll help him attain that status which every weak kid desires. Some kind of security, perhaps? Too bad that he was not accepted and spent all the time to hide from those bullies who harass him whenever they find him alone. They make fun of his stuttering, and alienate him. But poor kid still keep going on, after all moving on is life, thinking/telling himself one day things will change.If all that struggle outside home was not hard enough, he has to endure the little fights that his parents had. Its kind of funny how parents think. They'll hide things from you as in their opinion they're shielding you from pain because you're still a kid and unable to understand things. But they'll dump everything on you later expecting you to understand and corporate. They'll expect you to behave like an adult. This book is semi-autobiography of author and perhaps that's why he has captured the emotions of Jason so beautifully. I felt happy, sad, ecstatic, scared, and love for Jason because it was just perfect. A perfect read for someone like me (who loves coming of age stories). P.S: This book is full of songs from early 70s & 80s. (one more reason to love it)

  • Tim
    2019-03-03 02:54

    Sometimes I look forward to reviewing a book; other times it can feel like an unwanted chore, like mopping the floor. This falls into the latter category. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – I did – but because I can’t find much to say about it. It’s about a thirteen year old boy who is bullied at school. As a parent boys are difficult at thirteen. The spontaneity and moments of genius have retreated behind double glazing. A surly self-consciousness has replaced the old inclination to dig and dance and sing. When before in your role as father you were made to feel like a magical deity, you’re now made to feel like a traffic warden. That was one thing this book made me aware of. At the same time it brought back memories of when I was thirteen, only a few years before the character in this book was thirteen. One thing that occurred to me was how important football was in determining popularity at school. Mitchell barely mentions football. If you weren’t interested in football your chances of being bullied went up tenfold. Mitchell’s boy is bullied because he has a slight stutter. What Mitchell does supremely well here is to use stuttering as a metaphor for the painful awakening of self-consciousness in all adolescents (thanks to Ellie for making me rethink this element of the novel!). Mitchell’s character also writes poetry and reads The Daily Mail (there’s an oxymoron!) – what thirteen year old boy reads the Daily Mail? For Americans who don’t know, The Daily Mail is a British newspaper which was sympathetic to the Nazis in the 1930s and hasn’t changed its political perspective much over the years. Anyway, apologies for writing down some random thoughts instead of writing a helpful review!

  • Richard Derus
    2019-03-17 02:59

    Rating: 1.5* of five (p66)Strike one: Teenaged protagonist.Strike two, and ball one of strike three: Majgicqk. Or something like it.Strike three: David Mitchell's writing reminds me of all the MFA program writing I've ever read.I thought The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas were disorganized, and NO I did NOT misunderstand the fractured POV he used, I thought he did a poor job of executing it, and I found the preciosity of his phrasemaking in each of the three books I've either read through or Pearl Ruled unpleasant to the point of actual snort of derision coming out of me as I read.I don't think he's a good writer, I don't like the story he told here (which has nothing to do with him, only to do with my response), and I won't be reading more stuff like this:The first torrent of vomit kicked a GUUURRRRRR noise out of me, and poured on the muddy grass. In the hot slurry were bits of prawn and carrot. Some'd got n my splayed fingers. It was warm as warm rice pudding. More was coming, Inside my eyelids was a Lambert and Butler cigarette sticking out of its box, like in an advert. The second torrent was a mustardier yellow. I guppered for fresh oxygen like a man in an airlock. Prayed that was the last of it. Then came three short, boiling subslurries, slicker and sweeter, as if composed of the Baked Alaska.If you can make a kid puking tedious, brother, you can make ANYthing tedious. And he does. Poke me with a fork, I'm done.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Agnieszka
    2019-03-10 03:54

    I have failed to understand why this novel is sometimes disregarded even by Mitchell’s admirers. Because Mitchell accustomed us with his earlier works to something more bizarre and flamboyant ? BecauseBlack Swan Greenis so … ordinary ?Adolescence is a real torture, especially for sensitive, smart but morbidly lacking of self-confidence one. And so Jason is. Thirteen-year-old from some jerkwater town, struggling with own deficiencies and fears. In some respects Jason has really rough times: he’s stammering and at all costs attempts to hide it before schoolmates, besides, horror of horrors ! he's writing poems, what is considered as ... well,writing poems is . . . what creeps and poofters do . It’s so easy to become an object of mockery.In his home there is no better, bad relationships with older sister and hanging over head parents' divorce. And all this in Thatcher's England, times of recession, with the ongoing absurd Falklands war in the background.This traditional story captivates by its simplicity. Nuanced, amusing and compassionate at the same time. Accurate and irresistibly funny description of adults: sarcastic mother, intelligently mischievous sister, snobbish uncle, ironic cousin Hugo. The tragicomic deliberations on whom stutterer can become, as for sure not a lawyer, maybe a lighthouse keeper ? Soliciting for recognition in the peer group, dread of rejection and to be an object of ridicule and bullying described with tact and humour.Thirteen, wonderfully unhappy age. Neither child nor teenager.Black Swan Greenthen is a poignant, bitter-sweet farewell to childhood.

  • Peter Boyle
    2019-03-15 00:45

    David Mitchell is known for dazzling innovation and dizzying ambition. Intricately structured novels such as Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten are grand kaleidoscopes of intersecting voices and places. This book is a change of pace, however. It focuses on a single character in a single location. But despite its narrowed scope, it is no less powerful or captivating than his other works.Jason Taylor is our hero, a thirteen-year-old boy in the sleepy middle-class town of Black Swan Green, Worcestershire. On the surface all is well - he is a clever kid who has had poetry published in a local magazine, his family live in a wealthy estate and he has a loyal best friend in Dean Moran. But trouble is bubbling underneath. He is struggling to fit in at school, his stammer is becoming worse and lately his parents don't seem to be getting on with each other. And that's not to mention the ever-present threat of bullies, plus the head-scratching mystery of girls. 1982 will prove to be a tumultuous year in Jason's life and we have a front-row seat.It seems quite a personal tale, in some aspects at least. Mitchell grew up in a similar Worcestershire town and would have been the same age as Jason at this time. He has also spoken openly about his own struggles with a speech impediment. Jason refers to the mental block he experiences when speaking as a Hangman which robs him of his words. The intense anguish and embarrassment it causes him is extremely moving. It opened my eyes to the trauma and suffering that a person with a speech disorder goes through. Mitchell has described this book as a kind of catharsis for him: "I’d probably still be avoiding the subject today had I not outed myself by writing a semi-autobiographical novel, Black Swan Green, narrated by a stammering 13 year old."We've all encountered coming-of-age stories before but this one is different. It understands the true anxieties of adolescence better than anything else I've read. It's also a love letter to the early 80s and Mitchell clearly remembers this period fondly, with myriad references to The Rockford Files, Big Trak, Angel Delight and the like. It makes me pine for a more innocent time, when simple pleasures were enough to satisfy, instead of the hyper-connected world we now live in. Black Swan Green is a nostalgic delight, a gorgeous and vibrant account of that volatile first teenage year.

  • Megha
    2019-02-24 02:50

    Just as I opened the cover of the book, I was hit by a barrage of praise for the book comments. May be I should have stopped right there. But I didn't. Hence this review.When I watch a Hollywood movie or a TV show involving American schools, I see schoolkids overly concerned with social status and pecking order. There are these popular and cool kids, then there are nerds and other such stereotypes. They have to constantly worry about whose parties they get invited to, who they are seen talking to in public, what table they sit at during lunch, which co-curricular activities they participate in. It's their "coolness points" that are stake here. If you don't wear make-up or fancy clothes, no one wants to talk to you. If you are fat or wear braces, you are at risk of being an outcast.Geez, kids. Take it easy, will ya?!Who is teaching these kids to be so class-conscious? Who is teaching them to be so judgmental and critical of each other - that too based on superficial factors? Who is teaching them that they need to try to be someone they are not? Why can't kids just be kids?I once asked some of my American colleagues if their school lives were anything like what they show in movies. They told me that what they show in movies is highly exaggerated. As expected. But some kind of social hierarchy can be seen, however vaguely, in real life schools too. Our school life was just so different. Admittedly it has changed a bit by now, given I have been out of high school for almost 10 years. But things were, and are, so much simpler.And I wish they would be simple for Jason too. I understand him being conscious about his stammer. But I wish he didn't have to worry about being a social pariah for being a stammerer. And why don't his parents even attempt to make him feel comfortable and assure him that at least at home he doesn't need to feel shy? His dad's face turns a shade darker if the topic of stammering comes up. His mom talks about it in hushed tones to Aunt Alice. By avoiding the topic, the only message they are sending across is that they are embarrassed by Jason's problem and so should be Jason.Poor Jace the ace! I have all the sympathy for Jason, as will any other reader. Because Mitchell didn't leave us any other choice. If the characters aren't complex, the reader's emotional response to them is pretty much pre-defined. Jason is just a western adolescent boy, trying to be a regular western adolescent boy and a bunch of problems befall him through no fault of his own. What is a reader going to say - "Take that, you ape!"? Nope.And all the middle school drama - no thanks. Right off the bat, Jason establishes the social order. There are these rules about how you don't say no to cigarette if an "upper class" kid offers it to you. You can't say no to playing a game you hate, because that makes you look weak. There are detailed scenes about one schoolkid fighting another. Haven't we heard this story so many times before?This has to be one of the better written books on this topic though. I liked Mitchell's writing, but he needs to decide if it is a 13 year old boy who is narrating or a 35 year old man. The narrator is too eloquent and insightful for a 13 year old. I would give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's the adult Jason who is narrating the 13th year of this life. But then he keeps using teenage slang too. Well....?

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-02-23 04:02

    Onvan : Black Swan Green - Nevisande : David Mitchell - ISBN : 812974018 - ISBN13 : 9780812974010 - Dar 304 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2006

  • Roula
    2019-03-09 20:57

    Το να πω ποσο λατρευω τον David Mitchell ,για αλλη μια φορα, θα καταντησει γραφικο.κανονικα δε θα εγραφα καν κριτικη για αυτο το βιβλιο.θα εβαζα τα 4.5 αστερια μου και θα καθαριζα.ωστοσο , αυτο το βιβλιο ηταν τοσο διαφορετικο απο τα υπολοιπα δικα του που εχω διαβασει και ταυτοχρονα το ιδιο υπεροχο, ωστε θεωρησα πως αξιζει να πω 2 πραγματα.αυτη λοιπον ειναι η ιστορια ενηλικιωσης του Τζεισον δωσμενη σαν παραμυθι.με τα αστεια περιστατικα, τις αγωνιες, τους ηρωες, τους δρακους, τον "δημιο" και την τελικη καθαρση.πιστευα οτι ειχα ηδη διαβασει τετοιου ειδους λογοτεχνιας δοσμενη αριστοτεχνικα απο αναλογα μυθιστορηματα του Bukowski ή του Salinger.ωστοσο τολμω να πω οτι και ο Mitchell εκανε μια εξαιρετικη δουλεια σε αυτο το ειδος κι ας μην τον εχω συνηθισει σε κατι τετοιο.λατρεψα τον κεντρικο ηρωα, τις αμετρητες αναφορες σε εξαισια κομματια δεκαετιας 80 που σε εκαναν να θες να φτιαξεις το δικο σου mixed tape, τις αναφορες σε αλλα εργα του Mitchell για τους φανς του.κυριως λατρεψα το μοναδικο τροπο του Mitchell να σε τραβα μεσα στην ιστορια και να σε κανει να την σκεφτεσαι ακομη και οταν δεν εχεις το βιβλιο στα χερια σου. #γραφικημιτσελοχτυπημενηεχω διαβασει μολις 25 σελιδες και ηδη εχω ενθουσιαστει...#μιτσελοχτυπημενη

  • Ian
    2019-03-13 22:52

    A Spelling TestI kept this book on the shelf for a few years, before thinking I was ready to read it. I didn't want to break the spell of the first two David Mitchell books that I had read (I didn't really like Cloud Atlas) and I was a bit apprehensive about the subject matter of a young teenage boy. Ultimately, it was very much a book of two halves for me. Teenage Mates LandThe first half captured male teenagerdom in the period in the 60's and 70's (when I grew up) and the 80's (when Jason grew up) perfectly. It was the tail end of a period of Empire, Britannia Rules the Waves, Scouting for Boys, Biggles books and playing British Bulldog. It had nearly died by the time of Punk Rock for me, but it had one last inglorious revival when Maggie Thatcher invaded the Falklands, before deflating altogether, so much so that Tony Blair couldn't even revive it.Teenage WastelandThe trouble and the troubles set in in the second half. Things start to challenge the relative security of Jason's adolescent world view. Girls, gangs, crime, conflict, insecurity, parental estrangement, divorce.Teenage Resolution The problem is that the two halves are juxtaposed, but not sewn together in a narrative that resolves them in any way. It's like a photo album with two photos of the one boy at different ages. In one, he's fresh-faced and enthusiastic, in the next he's pimply and troubled. The reader might know or guess what comes next, but David Mitchell stops short of telling us. I can't help thinking that, if Jason was important enough to care about, David Mitchell could have finished off the story.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-28 20:46

    I remember describing this book to a coworker:Me: "It's about this little stuttering English kid who lives out in some little village during the Thatcher era, and sort of like, his coming of age kind of experiences?"Coworker: "Oh God, that sounds awful."Me: "No! I mean, I know it sounds awful the way I just explained it, but the book's actually really, really great!"Two days later....Me: (privately, to self) "Oh, God, this is awful."I don't know what happened! This book started out really amazing me, seeming superficially like one of those written-a-trillion-times quaint period piece preadolescent-boyhood novels, but somehow defied the genre and was just so wonderfully written and insided this kid's head and about a thousand times better than it had any right to be..... But then somehow, midway through, it tipped and twisted and turned into the most cliched, precious, tiresome crap I've read in awhile. Is that too harsh? Yeah. But it did suddenly get completely stupid, I'm pretty sure. It went from being this wonderfully phrased little shimmering gem with terrific dialogue, into... well, okay, spoiler alert: in the second half of this novel, the little boy meets an eccentric old lady who teaches him to believe in himself, copes with his parents' divorce, learns to overcome prejudice by befriending gypsies, stands up to bullies, gets his first kiss, and learns a few lessons about love and loss. Happily, our little hero Jason neatly resolves at least one of Erik Erikson's developmental stages and gains mastery over his environment, moving several strides closer to manhood in the great game of Life! If this sounds good to you, be my guest and pick up a copy of _Black Swan Green_. If you can't find this book, that's okay, because there are countless others which are very similar, many of them written for a young audience.Okay, I'm a big jerk, and it really wasn't so terrible... But if you're interested in the coming-of-age experiences of little British boys in crappy towns during the Falklands war, I suggest you go see the movie _This is England_, which has not just a much fresher take, but also a better soundtrack.

  • Vaso
    2019-03-20 03:03

    Δεν είχα ξαναδιαβάσει David Mitchell. Τα σχόλια όμως των "μιτσελικών" φιλενάδων μου εδω στο GR, με βάλανε σε πειρασμό. Οπότε, με το που το είδα στη βιβλιοθήκη, το άρπαξα χωρίς δεύτερη σκέψη. Το βιβλίο αφηγείται ένα χρόνο από την ζωή του δεκατριάχρονου Τζέισον. Περιέχει σκηνες απο την καθημερινότητά του, τις δυσκολίες που περνάει λόγω της βραδυγλωσσίας του, τα συναισθήματα του, τη σχέση του με τους γονείς και την αδερφή του. Αυτό που είναι εκπληκτικό με το Μαύρος κύκνος, ειναι οτι ο Μιτσελ, δεν παλιμπαιδιζει προσπαθώντας να αφηγηθεί την ιστορία του Τζέισον, ούτε η ιστορία είναι δοσμένη μέσα από τα μάτια ενός ενήλικα που αναπολεί την εφηβεία του. Είναι σαν ο συγγραφέας του βιβλίου να ανήκει πραγματικά στην τρυφερή ηλικία των 13 ετών..

  • Panagiotis
    2019-03-18 04:38

    Είναι χαρακτηριστικό των προικισμένων συγγραφέων, αυτών που ακολουθούν το δικό τους όραμα, η δουλειά τους να μην μπορεί να περιγραφεί τηλεγραφικά. Διαφορετικοί αναγνώστες μπορεί να αποτιμήσουν διαφορετικά τα έργα τους, τα οποία δεν κατατάσσονται εύκολα. Ωστόσο, με κάθε καινούρια ανάγνωση, θα αναφωνήσει κανείς πως, ναι, αυτή είναι άλλη μια χαρακτηριστική δουλειά του συγγραφέα. Ο Μίτσελ, πολυσχιδής, με ετερόκλητες αναφορές που διατρέχουν είδη όπως φαντασία, ε.φ., ιστορική λογοτεχνία, κλπ, με κάθε του βιβλίο προσθέτει έναν λίθο στο οικοδόμημα της καλής λογοτεχνίας, της ωραίας.Εδώ γράφει κάτι πραγματικά διαφορετικό: μια εν μέρει αυτοβιογραφική αφήγηση, όπου ο ομοδιηγητικός ήρωας, στις παρυφές της εφηβείας, μας δίνει μια ματιά της ζωής του, σε μια χρονιά στην μικρή πόλη της Βρετανίας - black swan green, σαν αστείο, δίχως ούτε καν λευκούς κύκνους στην λίμνη του, όπως λέει προσπαθώντας να κάνει απεγνωσμένα φλερτ σε μια τουρίστρια. Έχει προβλήματα τραυλισμού, αντιμετωπίζει εκφοβισμό και τραμπουκισμό στο σχολείο, η οικογένεια αντιμετωπίζει τα συνήθη προβλήματα που μπορεί να μαυρίσουν τα ψυχή ενός παιδιού. Κι ενώ τίποτα δεν εξωραίζεται, η ιστορία είναι ένα παραμύθι με την ανέμελη φωνή του πρωταγωνιστής της. Τα καθημερινά βιώματά του γίνονται ένα παραμύθι που θα διασκεδάσει τον αναγνώστη, θα τον κανει να στεναχωρηθεί με την σκληρότητα των νταήδων, με την ρουτινιάρικη σχολική ζωή, με εκείνη την προσμονή για το αύριο. Μα τελικά, πόσο όμορφη μπορεί να είναι η ζωή μέσα από τα μάτια ενός παιδιού; Πολύ!Και εκεί είναι που ο Μίτσελ επιστρατεύει το μέγιστο όπλο του - αυτή την διαολική ευχέρεια με την οποία μπορεί να μπαίνει στο πετσί των ηρώων του. Θαρρείς πως δεν γράφει, αλλά ερμηνεύει. Όπως ερμηνεύει μάγους, σοφούς, επηρμένους φοιτητές, δαιμονικούς λόγιους, γιατρούς, εμπόρους και αιωνόβιους υπερανθρώπους, εδώ μπαίνει μέσα στον νεαρό ήρωα και μας παίρνει μαζί του.Μα ό,τι και διαβάσουμε έτσι, θα είναι μια περιπέτεια δίχως προηγούμενο. Ο Μίτσελ είναι εγγύηση σε αυτό: να βγαίνεις από το σαλόνι σου, από το σπίτι σου και να μεταφέρεσαι στα μέσα της δεκαετίας του '80, να μπαίνεις στις ντισκοτέκ, να ακούς τα χιτ της εποχής στην Βρετανία της νεολαίας, να μυρίζεις τα καθίσματα από τα αμάξια και τα τρένα.Α, και φυσικά διαβάζεται όπως λέμε απνευστί! Ειδικά κάποια αδηφάγα πλάσματα της ανάγνωσης θα το τελειώσουν σε 2-3 καθισιές.Καλή ανάγνωση!

  • Michael
    2019-02-23 22:41

    This warm and big-hearted coming-of-age tale of a 13-year old boy, Jason Taylor, set in rural south central England in the early 80’s has plenty of charm. It’s sweet, but not sappy. Its magic lies in the capturing of innocence of that age at that time and place, from the electricity of a first kiss and sickness from a first cigarette to the pull of dancing to the Talking Heads and of jingoistic feelings inspired by Maggie Thatcher’s war for the Falkland Islands. The dark side of things in this story are pretty mild. Mitchell isn’t going for the drama of surviving that typically anguished period of life, the twisted impacts of a dysfunctional family, or a satirical expose of the British middle class. Instead, the overall effect of my read is a sense of adventure and empathy for this boy at the cusp between the handicaps of naivete and confidence of adult sensibilities. We do get the typical challenges of bullies and cliques at school. And the dawning of knowledge that his parents are hiding troubles in their marriage. The sad truth that his government can lie about the dangers and purposes of the war and that boys he knows can die needlessly there. And that sex may not be all it’s cracked up to be. But the overwhelming challenge for Jason is his stammer. His brave struggle to deal with fears of ridicule and feelings of shame is wonderfully portrayed. He personifies the problem as the “Hangman”, always waiting to catch him. He hasn’t seen the movie we have, “The King’s Speech”. He can’t imagine want job he might hold which would not require speaking:Being trapped in a monestary’d be murder. How about a lighthouse keeper? All those storms, sunsets, and Dairylea sandwiches’d make you lonely in the end. But lonely is something I’d better get used to. What girl’s go out with a stammerer? Or even dance with one? The last song at the Black Swan Green Village Hall Disco’s be over before I could spit out D-d-d-you want to d-d-d-d-d-dance. Or what if I stammered at my wedding and couldn’t even say “I do”?We root for him to get past all these hurdles and know that he will. It becomes evident that Jason’s inner voice is too strong for him to fail. It spills out into secret poetry he submits under a pseudonym for the parish newsletter, and he continually harnesses his poetic ways of looking at the world through metaphors, myths, and hyperbole. The structure of the book is of thirteen chapters for thirteen months, each of which is like a short story on a theme. In each case, we see him growing up a little more before our eyes. In one chapter, he gets some brief tutoring on life and his poetic aspirations from an ancient Belgian émigré, Eva. He confesses to keeping his writing secret because he doesn’t want to be considered gay. She nails him with: “You are afraid the hairy barbarians will not accept you into your tribe if you write poetry.” Though Mitchell leans mostly toward simple realism,, he periodically infuses some welcome comic relief, as here in this exchange with Eva: “…what are the writers you revere most greatly?”“Oh.” I mentally scanned my bookshelf for the really impressive names. “Isaac Asimov. Ursula Le Guin. John Wyndham.”“Assy-smurf? Ursular Gun? Wind-‘em? These are modern poets?”“No. Sci-fi, fantasy. Stephen King, too. He’s horror.”“ ‘Fantasy’? Pfffft! Listen to Ronald Reagan’s homilies! ‘Horror’? What of Vietnam, Afganistan, South Africa? Idi Amin, Mao Tse-Tung, Pol Pot? Is not enough horror? I mean, who are your masters? Chekhov?”“Er …no.”“But you have read Madame Bovary?”(I’d never heard of her books.) “No.”Each name climbed up the octave. “Hermann Hesse?”“No.” Unwisely, I tried to dampen Madame Crommelynck’s disgust. “We don’t really do Europeans at school ---““ ‘Europeans’? England is now drifted to the Caribbean? Are you African? Antarctican? You are European, you illiterate monkey of puberty! …”Another of the chapters treads a little along the lines of a boy-level parody of mythic adventures and quests in the woods of the Malvern Hills. But it’s not far from the fantasy games and challenges we got up to in my rural youth decades earlier. Have a sample of the spooky poetry Jason’s mind comes up with (a case where purple patch has a good excuse):Squeezing through a missing slat in a mossy fence, we found ourselves at the bottom of lumpy lawn. Molehills mounted up here and there. A big, silent mansion with turret things watched us from the top of the slope. A peardrop sun dissolved in a sloped pond. Superheated flies grandprixed over the water. Trees at the height of their blossom bubbled dark cream by a rotted bandstand.I admit I was a little disappointed not to have another advance in the art of the novel along the lines of “Cloud Atlas”, but I got over that attitude. In a great 2010 interview in “The Paris Review”, Mitchell explained: After doing a half Chinese-box, half Russian-doll sort of a novel, I wanted to see if I could write a compelling book about an outwardly unremarkable boy stuck in an outwardly unremarkable time and place without any jiggery-pokery, without fireworks—just old-school..I refer the curious reader to the same interview to learn how much this novel is autobiographical, and why the interviewer was led to remark: “It was perverse of you to write a first novel after having written three others.”

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-02-24 02:52

    Black Swan Green surfed out of David Mitchell after the literary ocean had swept up Cloud Atlas and smashed it repeatedly against the shore marked "greatness", where it burst open and loads of critical acclaim and literary awards came gushing out. I read Cloud Atlas first and managed to protect myself against the gushing geyser of praise by having a suitably large umbrella. Sadly my umbrella is mostly made of a thin but impermeable layer of cynicism so I didn't have as many lovely things to say about Cloud Atlas as many others did.This book made me re-evaluate the thoughts I'd had after reading Cloud Atlas although I still wasn't prepared to join in the gush-fest. Black Swan Green seemed to be more genuine read/ write and I've subsequently learned through the lazy joy of Wikipedia, that this is because it is semi-autobiographical. I also learned that this book is actually classed by some as YA lit which means that I've accidentally read my first YA novel without even realising. The epic Jason Taylor (maggot, unborn twin and Hangman)acts as narrator and humorous and self-depreciating tour guide to the events and landmarks which define a benchmark year in his young life. While the YA narrator, Jason Taylor clearly has more guile and experience than that of an actual teenager (he is after all the vehicle of the adult Mitchell, who presumably has the benefit of hindsight, not being a virgin etc) he still appears as a credible and likeable narrator. Part of me is tempted think, well how hard can it be to write about being a child? After all we were all children once, right? However creating a believable and even likeable teen protagonist is probably a lot harder than it seems so I have to give credit as at no point did I scoff at the plausibility of the narrator. In fact, despite myself I even enjoyed my own little trip down a retro memory lane because this book is laden with 1980s pop-culture references. As a child of the 80s myself I will proudly announce that I refused to have dinner until after I'd watched the A-Team and when I grew up I wanted to be Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, aka George Peppard - at this point I clearly had not grasped core gender differences, but whatever. So what is the verdict? If you loved Cloud Atlas, you'll like this (spot the recurring characters po-mo style) and if you hated Cloud Atlas, well you might enjoy this despite yourself. I did.

  • Madeleine
    2019-02-26 03:57

    In every review of "Black Swan Green" I've read, the reviewer made sure to include some remark like "This isn't nearly as ambitious as 'Cloud Atlas'" or "I was expecting this to be more like 'Cloud Atlas' and, like, it totally wasn't." And that's really not fair to BSG because the two books are delightful and beautiful in their own ways for different reasons.I had no idea what to expect from this book. I picked it up because I bloody love David Mitchell (and, yes, "Cloud Atlas," which I do adore so very much, WAS my introduction to his brand of wonderful) and the beautiful things he does with language as both a wordsmith and a storyteller. So when the adolescent narrator mentioned his stammer the first time, my stuttering self needed a second to regroup. Seeing one of my favorite writers tackle a speech impediment much like the one I've struggled with since first grade? Yeah, it was a combination of a little too much at once and everything I wanted. And you know what? In less than 300 pages, thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor perfectly described all of the hang-ups and anxieties and fears and Catholic-sized guilt it's been taking me 20 years to figure out. It's intimidating to feel that in sync with a fictional pre-teen. But Jason Taylor is a young lad in early '80s England, so there's a lot going on both around and inside him; thus, his stammer -- our biggest commonality -- was not the central plot from which the story radiates. This book couldn't win me over solely on my overwhelming empathy for an invented youth -- though it certainly helped.Like the other Mitchell books I've read, BSG is, at its core, a series of intertwining vignettes (in this instance, each chapter represents a month in Jason's life for 13 consecutive months); the most obvious dissimilarity comes from how immediately apparent the connecting thread is. Instead of multiple narrative voices, Mitchell stuck to one this time -- with much success. Coming-of-age tales can be so damn onerous and so immersed in self-aggrandizing observations that reading them is as unpleasant as actually going through puberty again. Jason is such a charming, observant and conflicted child that I was taken with him at once. The truths he sprinkles throughout his narration are said with such reverence and awed discovery that it keeps the typically cloying sentiment found in lesser examples of the bildungsroman genre at bay.

  • JSou
    2019-02-18 23:01

    Why is it that bad memories from adolescence never seem to fade away? I mean really, it's been a pretty long time since I was in junior high, yet there's certain times that those memories come flooding back to the point where it feels like all those events just happened yesterday. Being a shy, bookish type girl did not go over well in the junior high social scene, believe me. I remember one day getting off the bus after school, enduring more than the usual amount of name calling and laughing, when one of the "cool" girls who got off at the same bus stop told me not to listen to them, that they were just stupid jerks. Hearing that one nice comment gave me such a sense of relief, and made me realize that not everyone was a complete asshole. Thanks Heather Daniels, wherever you are. The point is, reading this book brought a lot of those memories back, but almost in a good way, not where they just make me cringe. Black Swan Green gives a glimpse into the life of Jason Taylor, a stammering, thirteen year-old growing up in a little village outside Worcestershire in the early eighties. While Jason goes through the normal trials of trying to fit in with the popular crowd, hiding his stammer as best he can, and tolerating middle-school torture, he witnesses and experiences so much actual life, it's amazing.Black Swan Green touches on love, death, beauty, war, family, politics, marriage, prejudice, and so much more, all through the eyes of a thirteen year-old boy. It made this book so much more powerful, knowing that the character himself couldn't even comprehend the magnitude and meaning of all of these life lessons at the time. I love David Mitchell's writing, and though this was different from Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten, I think he did a great job at this coming-of-age novel.And, as a bonus, this book is full of British slang and expressions, which I will now insert and overuse in my vocabulary until I drive everyone around me crazy and they scream at me to stop. Not just British slang, eighties British slang. Heh. This'll be fun.

  • Aubrey
    2019-03-07 00:48

    This is a children's book written for the adult mind. All of the horrors and torments of the regular youth, the fighting parents, the schoolyard bullies, the secrets, the shame, are written in such a way that memories of your own childhood will be conjured up, emotions fresh as if it were yesterday. Throughout the story, the main character has insights that are a mix of childhood imagination and innate wisdom, as he goes through the motions of the daily life and all of its consequences. It is a long, hard slog, with an end that while not triumphant is indeed a triumph; a child conquering what life throws at him and coming out of it bruised, but not broken. I extremely resent the fact that this is sometimes called the British Catcher in the Rye. That is one of the severest insults that exist in the literary world.

  • Lynne King
    2019-02-25 03:02

    This is a beautifully written book but I'm going to make a contradictory statement here - it is not for me.Jason Taylor is a delightful boy, for most of the time that is, but my attention began to wander after a couple of chapters. The book did not fulfil my expectations. A quick skim through the book and then that was the end of that.A shame really as it held such promise initially. Perhaps I will try and reread it at some later stage in my life.

  • Chris_P
    2019-02-28 20:58

    I've been trying to find the words to write a proper review but looks like they're avoiding me. Maybe I'm out of form or it could be that Black Swan Green is a hard one to write about? Either way, I'm at a loss, so be warned, this is by no means a proper review.The jury has come back in, ladies and gentlemen, and the verdict is clear. David Mitchell is brilliant. This is the fourth of his novels I've read so far and I can't help but wonder how the man does it. Black Swan Green may not be as majestic and complex as Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten, but it surely doesn't lack in the inventiveness and depth the author has spoiled us with. To write good books is one thing. To write good books in so many genres and styles avoiding standards and cliches, I'd say, is quite another.Black Swan Green is basically the chronicle of a year in the life of a thirteen-year-old boy, set in an English village in 1982. What makes it brilliant, if you ask me, is the perfect portrayal of being thirteen, when adventures take only a mere stroll in the woods to unravel, and ordinary things become extraordinary when experienced through the prism of that age. No need for supernatural elements here. The supernatural is a standard ingredient when you're thirteen. The sequence of doors we passed made me think of all the rooms of my past and future. The hospital ward I was born in, classrooms, tents, churches, offices, hotels, museums, nursing homes, the room I’ll die in. (Has it been built yet?) Cars’re rooms. So are woods. Skies’re ceilings. Distances’re walls. Wombs’re rooms made of mothers. Graves’re rooms made of soil.Mitchell doesn't need a great adventure to serve as a lesson-giving medium. In Black Swan Green, simplicity does the trick. That said, his well-known witticisms are there as is his unique style with all the word tricks and the, at times, lyrical flow. Many distinct characters whom you could tell apart just by their way of speaking. Such is Mitchell's talent. Moreover, the chapter solarium, where Vyvyan Ayrs' daughter, Eva (rings a bell, Mitchell fans?), makes a powerful appearance, is so brilliant it made me want to give a 5-star rating right there and then. A great work by a great author. Next in line, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-08 04:33

    “If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.”Black Swan Green is David Mitchell's semi-autobiographical novel about a thirteen year old boy, Jason Taylor, growing up in Worcestershire England in the 1980s. This is a bildungsroman about navigating adolescence, which captures with aplomb how absurd and hypocritical and draining the whole experience is. But it's also a novel filled to the brim with hope and humor, told with honesty and vulnerability. I was immediately endeared to thoughtful and sensitive Jason, who hides the fact that he writes poetry from his family and classmates in order to avoid social isolation. Mitchell details the ins and outs of unspoken social norms which govern the male adolescent life with admirable precision: you're only allowed to call someone by their first name if they're one of the popular kids, you can't be seen in public with your parents unless it happens to be an event where everyone else is out with their parents too, if you start dancing too soon at a school dance you're a loser but if you don't join it at just the right time you're lame - and the absurdity here lies in just how much sense it all makes. I was instantly transported back to high school and the complex set of social dynamics which at the time felt like life or death, but which looking back on now just seem sort of silly. The stakes in this book constantly feel high, but not melodramatically so. There's a self-awareness that permeates the narrative, saying, hey, I know this is ridiculous, but it's also survival.Mitchell's approach to this narrative is fragmentary rather than cohesive, each chapter representing a single episode from each month of the year. Not all of these episodes are centered around Big Life Events, either. Sometimes it's the little things that end up defining us the most, and that's what Mitchell hones in on. Each chapter reads like a short story, but it all comes together in the end; you gradually realize how and why each of these incidents shaped Jason so profoundly, and how they tie in to the bigger things going on in his life at the time (his parents' fragile marriage, the Falklands War and the death of a local boy overseas, the political climate of England under Thatcher's leadership). There's so much packed into this book, my brain is still reeling from it all. Black Swan Green tackles the fragility of human connections; the difficulty of being true to oneself while also trying to fit in; the futility of war; the hypocrisy of the way some parents interact with their teenaged children; the utter powerlessness that comes with being young; knowing on some level that youth is transient but not really believing it. Ironically, though this book is told from the point of view of a teenage boy, I think I got more out of it reading it as an adult than I would have reading it when I was that age. That isn't to say that it's inaccessible to teenagers or that younger readers would miss the thematic richness. But I think it helped that I'm removed enough from that period in my life that this story doesn't feel quite as raw to me as it does to Jason.At any rate, this was an unexpectedly moving book, told on one level with urgency and on another with a nostalgic reflection. The result is original and poignant and I loved it. And to the person who lent it to me: sorry it took me three years.

  • Tanuj Solanki
    2019-03-20 02:38

    1) A novel written from the perspective, or in the voice, of an adolescent boy is nothing new. 2) A novel concentrating on the development of character through formative experiences, some of which are representative of the time he or she lives in, is nothing new. It is called a Bildungsroman.3) A novel that highlights, or hints at, the fragility of family, or the frailty of marriage, is nothing new.Mitchell trods on these, and other, well-beaten paths, striving all the time to deliver us something fresh on each page. Does he succeed? The answer, it seems, will depend on how revelatory Mitchell's novel ends up being. This would require a deeper analysis. One needs to note the total effect a reading of 'Black Sean Green' has; and one needs, definitely, also to note the mechanics by which that effect is created. Let us approach the problem in the reverse.Let us start again with the three points I opened this review with and see how Mitchell presents them in this novel1) Jason Taylor, the 12-13 year old protagonist, is a stammerer. His quest, as is revealed pretty early in the novel, is to become a non-stammerting stammerer, one who is able to evade or hide his defect, work around it, so to say. If one stops and ponder, this quest is not Taylor's alone. It is a universal quest. Life is - no question about it - about discovering the defects that you cannot do anything about, and working around them. But anyways...Mitchell provides details of Taylor's speech defect, presents to us his fears and struggles regarding it, and even uses it as a mood-setting tool in most conversations (Taylor stammers when he is nervous - the stammer makes him nervous). But what exactly is achieved from all of that?We can argue, with a cynicism I attibute to critics and find utterly loathsome, that by making the protagonist a stammerer Mitchell provides an easy justification for the excellent articulation which Taylor's voice assumes in the first-person narrative. But this is not the complete picture. The effort is directed elsewhere. Through the stammer, it is the innocence of the stammerrer, his inclination for simplicity, his dread of the emotionally engaging, that is established as the motif for the novel. Just as Taylor dreads some words that may incite his stammer, just as he dreads situations where his defect may be exposed, the novel steers clear, consistently, of facing the dreadful, horrible, undeniably painful confrontation with sad realities. Taylor's defect, then, is not a petty ruse to justify the language. It is the constraint Mitchell imposes on the protagonist, a constraint that actually becomes a shield for his innocence. Black Swan Green is a novel of aching innocence; innocence that becomes progressively aware of everything that threatens it, and protects itself; innocent not lost, but one the verge of getting lost, and fighting its last battles. How? By avoiding, by NOT TALKING of those things. Why? Well, if the veneer of innocence is lost, we are all exposed, aren't we?2) Bildungsroman (and the subset called Kunstlerroman)is a different animal. The plot here is often not the gestalt of characters and surrounding and events and politics and history and philosophy and time (most importantly!) and the text (for Post-modernists!) that is present in many, in fact most, complex novels. One may imagine the plot of a Bildungsroman not as a complex yarn of a Nabokov novel, from which no threads can be pulled out, but as a rope that binds all elements together, taking strength from each thread and elongating itself, simply and easily, on the onward axis of time.Critical experiences happen to us arbitrarily. Therefore, it is neither uncommon, nor unnatural, for a Bildungsroman to unfold in episodes, short snippets of time where a major event of character-forming impact takes place. There is the question of epiphanies, too - a rapid change internalized in a short burst. That said, a Bildungsroman builds character layer by layer. What is learned in chapter 4 is added to Chapter 5. Incident upon incident the crust around the self of the protagonist hardens and he prepares to face the world.Now Mitchell is known to approach the novel in a staccato fashion. His unit of deliberation is most often the 'chapter' - as evinced in his earlier novel Cloud Atlas. The consequential ability of his chapters to stand independent from each other leaves him a distinct advantage for a Bildungsroman. What he manages exceptionally well is (A) The connections between the chapters, which stay strong yet underplayed, and (B) The absence of epiphany.Point B requires more deliberation from me.It is not that a 12-13 year old cannot be expected to have an epiphany, but the textual nature of that epiphany is bound to be lower than for a man at 20. By textual nature, I mean the thoughts in words. In Joyce's Portrait, the initial chapters concentrate more on Stephan's emotions rather than what theories he makes from his experiences. As we proceed we see more and more epiphanies. For a 12 year old experience leads to emotion, to thumb rules, but not to streams of thought that can be convereted to paragraph upon paragraph. It is, thus, the absence of a distended interior monologue, that adds credence to the novel.

  • Whitaker
    2019-03-19 20:46

    David Mitchell is well on his way to becoming one of my favourite contemporary writers. He has an amazing ability to ventriloquise, to channel characters through his writing. Here, in this mash-up of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he seems to be channeling his younger self, self-conscious British teenage speak warring with the compressed imagery of the developing poet:The lake in the woods was epic. Tiny bubbles were trapped in the ice like in Fox's Glacier Mints.A child of the period myself, Mitchell's 80's decade(nt) pop culture references were in themselves a thrill and a half: Dad's got an answering machine like James Garner's in The Rockford File with big reels of tape. But he's stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn't hear it up in her converted attic 'cause "Don't You Want Me?" by Human League was thumping out dead loud. …Dad's IBM sits on the steel desk. Thousands of pounds, IBMs cost. The office phone's red like a nuclear hotline and it's got buttons you push, not the dial you get on normal phones. Reading the novel at the end of the Age of Reatcher, the similarities with its beginning just felt uncanny: the Falklands War eerily prescient of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 80's retrenchments and job losses seeing their counterpart in today's Great Recession. Black Swan Green falls into the genre of bildungsroman, and Mitchell charts Jason's emotional and mental growth over the period of a year--each chapter an episode in a month of that year--when his life goes through a more than usual teenage upheaval. He captures with high fidelity not just the images and episodes of the period but that peculiar condition of belonging to that savage tribe called "Teenage Boy'Hood": I call him "Dean" if we're on our own, but names aren't just names. Kids who're really popular get called by their first names, so Nick Yew's always just "Nick". Kids who're a bit popular like Gilbert Swinyard have sort of respectful nicknames like "Yardy". Next down are kids like me who call each other by our surnames. Below us are kids with piss-take nicknames like Moran Moron or Nicholas Briar, who's Knickerless Bra. It's all ranks, being a boy, like the army. If I called Gilbert Swinyard just "Swinyard," he'd kick my face in. Or if I called Moron "Dean" in front of everyone, it'd damage my own standing. So you've got to watch out. Jason stutters. He calls his impediment "Hangman", and to escape the tribe's inevitable harassment, he learns to substitute words on the fly avoiding those that are tripping him up. This need hones his facility and love for words:My eye spidered over my poster of black angelfish turning into white swans, across over my map of Middle-earth, around my door frame, into my curtains, lit fiery mauve by my spring sun, and fell down the well of dazzle. This would all be a little precious and pretentious, but Mitchell avoids this trap, mixing the poet's startling observation with the teenager's trite banality: Autumn's fungussy, berries're manky, leaves're rusting, V's of long-distance birds're crossing the sky, evenings're smoky, nights're cold, autumn's nearly dead. I hadn't even noticed it was ill. I remember this. It was the strangest sense of déjà v(éc)u, reading this novel set in 1980's Britain. My boyhood was spent in a hot tropical city state, but that teenage displacement, that love for words and for writing, and for that making you the odd man out, that was my life too. And I loved this novel for bringing back to me those teenage days when with a casual twist bathos would invert to pathos or vice versa.

  • Linda
    2019-02-25 03:02

    4.5 stars

  • Cecily
    2019-03-05 00:59

    There is little narrative drive, but Mitchell is pretty much my age and this is heavily autobiographical, so I enjoyed being transported to a fairly accurate version of a world I remember. I could imagine knowing someone like Jason, maybe even being him some of the time. The narration by a stuttering 13 year old boy is slightly reminiscent of Mark Haddon's Curious Incident, but not as convincing or interesting. It mentions specific 70s brands and products too deliberately - as if he's trying to make it understandable far in the future, not at all how such a boy would have described things at the time. Also, it makes it read rather like Nigel Slater's Toast and Andrew Collins' opposite of misery-lit, Where Did it All go Right? autobiogs, which at least had a more valid reason for so doing - and he does credit the latter. Overall, disappointing - even if not comparing it with his brilliant "Ghostwritten" and "Cloud Atlas". Uses his trick of inserting characters from other books: * Madame Crommelynck is the composer's daughter from Cloud Atlas* Neal Brose is a an entrepreneurial bully who becomes a major character in Ghostwritten * Number 9 Dream is a Beatles song that plays at a disco as well as being the title of another Mitchell book Number 9 Dream* The dodgy older cousin, Hugo Lamb, is a major character in The Bone Clocks

  • Susan
    2019-03-14 23:43

    This is a beautifully written book about Jason, a funny, resourceful, smart and intelligent thirteen year old, who faces his many problems and challenges.....a stammer, bullying, parents at war with each well as all the usual difficulties of being a teenager, with bravery and honesty.I feel that author David Mitchell gives a totally believable insight into how a boy of thirteen is affected by the pressures of growing up, and of trying to fit in and be accepted by his peers, of struggling to understand his parents, and of coming to terms with who he is, and liking himself.On a personal level, this book was also a lovely walk down memory lane, reminding me of the music, lifestyles and current affairs of England in the eighties.I was sorry to say goodbye to Jason. I envy anyone just beginning this’re in for a great read.

  • Steve
    2019-02-22 01:56

    I can’t wait to read more by this guy. It’s clear how Mitchell has such devoted fans. The only word of advice I would give to anyone before reading this tremendous coming of age story is to choose not to be bothered about whether a 13-year-old boy could, in real life, be such a polished and insightful writer. Just enjoy the fact that Mitchell is. He’s ace, as young Jason might say!

  • Bill Khaemba
    2019-03-18 23:44

    What more can I say but Mitchell has my soulFOLLOW BLOG (Kenyan Library)“If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’."Mitchell does it again!! Are we really surprised that I ended up really enjoying this one…Set in the 1980s this coming of age story follows the life of Jason Taylor a young 13-year-old boy from the town of Black Swan Green as he navigates through the tough challenges that life has to offer with his stammering and coming to terms with his love for poetry. To top it all of he has to overcome school bullies, family drama, the effects of the Falklands War and his strong unexpected feelings towards girls. David Mitchell once again has proven himself to be a master at capturing the normalcy of the backwards English village through a teenager’s perspective.“These jokes the world plays, they're not funny at all.” Seriously impressed so far by what I have read by Mitchell. After Cloud Atlas(Review here) becoming one of the best books I read last year, I was sure that whatever genre his magic hands touches will be an instant favourite. Yes, this wasn’t anything like Cloud Atlas but it was still an enjoyable journey with relatable themes and beautiful prose.“Teachers always using that "in your own words." I hate that. Authors knit their sentences tight. It's their job. Why make us unpick them, just to put it back together more shonkily? How're you s'posed to say Kapellmeister if you can't say Kapellmeister?”What really stood out for me throughout the book was the main character’s growth, Jason. At the beginning of the book, he comes off as a very misunderstood character who just wants to fit in and I was a bit put off because I didn’t want to read another generic teenage boy story with unrealistic expectations that always wins at the end and gets the girl.But after a few chapters his complexity surfaces and we see that he has so much more to offer and that drives the narrative. The exploration of his stammering was eye opening - the therapy process he undergoes with a speech therapist was fascinating but also heartbreaking to watch how much it affects his time in school with bullies and teachers who don’t really understand his struggles. As we go back to his home we find a very accurate depiction of family dynamics and how dysfunctional they are on the inside but appear normal on the outside. The after effect of war and politics through Jason’s perspective was really interesting, being so young he doesn’t understand quite how everything works and you see the pain, recovery and how war can break down not only a family but the community. He dives in so much in this small book and it was so impressive how effortlessly he tackles each and every topic, really just goes to show you how brilliant of a writer he is.“The world never stops unmaking what the world never stops making. But who says the world has to make sense? ” Another aspect that totally blew my mind was the connection between this book and cloud atlas (not going to mention here because of spoilers) but I almost shit myself when I saw the connections.It so meticulously placed that only real fans could join the dots. His ability to form connections through books and humans is really what I admire about him. I always think about how stories or everyday life links us and Mitchell take that idea and puts in on paper and I eat it all up.Tones of literary references and 80s Pop-Culture from movies to music and the importance of music and poetry were just an added bonus.I am definitely looking forward to his next book and this just proves that he can write a 1000-page book about the history of the shoe-lace and I would buy it and read it. (Seriously Go Freaking Read Cloud Atlas)So until next time stay Bookish ;)