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Black Swan Green by David Mitchell: not a scary book. Rebekah Send a noteboard - 15/08/2010 04:34:30 PM

The year is 1982. Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister, Duran Duran is at the top of the charts, and Britain is about to go to war with Argentina over some islands at the bottom of the world. Black Swan Green in Worcestershire, however, remains the same quiet place. According to 13-year-old Jason, it’s the deadest village in the world. But 1982 has a few surprises in store.

Black Swan Green, published in 2006, is David Mitchell's fourth book. It's a complete change of pace and style from his previous novel (Cloud Atlas), and works on a different level. The story, semi-autobiographical, is of 13 months in a young boy's life. A boring premise, perhaps, but Mitchell takes that simple beginning and weaves in elements of gothic horror and literary criticism, amongst other things, to create a rich story.

School-yard bullies, questions of reputation, and how to avoid being beaten up are common themes of literature involving adolescents. So Mitchell's narrator has to struggle with extra problems: a stutter, and a penchant for writing poetry, both of which, if discovered, will seriously ruin Jason's social standing. As he struggles with these issues, he meets some unusual people who challenge his way of thinking and force/help him to become more assertive.

As with Cloud Atlas, Mitchell's interest in language can be seen in this book. He plays with teen slang and various accents, using them to comment on society in subtle ways. The use of a child as narrator also allows him to question social mores in a more direct manner than he could have done with a less naive character. Jason's comments are frequently delightful, although occasionally they make you wonder whether a 13 year old would say or even think in that way.

The setting feels very authentic, and Mitchell put a lot of effort into ensuring that the songs, TV shows and food referenced fit perfectly into the era. There is a real feeling of stepping back into the Cold War past.

Overall, Black Swan Green is a very enjoyable, sometimes disturbing, often moving slice of life. It reminds us that the nostalgia we often feel for our younger days can be misplaced, as teenage years are not necessarily simpler or more charming. But it also encourages us to remember the people whose influence shaped our futures and helped us to become the people we are today.


Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
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Black Swan Green by David Mitchell: not a scary book. - 15/08/2010 04:34:30 PM 5777 Views
Not scary? - 15/08/2010 07:09:26 PM 1555 Views
That was it. - 15/08/2010 10:39:40 PM 1457 Views
The cover looks nice - 15/08/2010 07:34:44 PM 1475 Views
It's an appropriate cover. - 15/08/2010 10:54:48 PM 1500 Views
I like David Mitchell. But this is definately my least favourite of his works. *NM* - 15/08/2010 10:14:39 PM 805 Views
Why? *NM* - 15/08/2010 10:26:45 PM 746 Views
I think it's a bit too focused if that makes sense. - 15/08/2010 10:29:11 PM 1403 Views
I think that's half the point. - 15/08/2010 10:42:58 PM 1658 Views
He's brilliant. Also Ghostwritten is AMAZING. I buy it for my friends! *NM* - 15/08/2010 10:44:43 PM 791 Views
Found this at the local second hand store for 4 euros. - 17/08/2010 08:37:42 PM 1430 Views
Oooh, nice. - 17/08/2010 08:42:10 PM 1540 Views
I'm about half-way through it - 01/11/2010 02:14:23 PM 1455 Views
Ok. I finally finished it. *slight spoilers* - 28/11/2010 11:22:29 AM 1720 Views

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