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Black Swan Green | [David Mitchell]

Black Swan Green

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2006.
Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, 2006
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book, 2007.

Jason Taylor is 13, doomed to be growing up in the most boring family in the deadest village on earth.

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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2006.
Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, 2006
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book, 2007.

Jason Taylor is 13, doomed to be growing up in the most boring family in the deadest village on earth. In 13 chapters we follow 13 months of his life as he negotiates the pitfalls of school and home and contends with bullies, girls, and family politics. In the distance, the Falklands conflict breaks out; close at hand, the village mobilises against a gypsy camp. And through Jason's eyes, we see what he doesn't know he knows and watch unfold what will make him wish his life had been as uneventful as he believed.

©2006 David Mitchell; (P)W.F. Howes Ltd

What the Critics Say

"David Mitchell is dizzyingly, dazzlingly good....The everyday details of Jason's life are lyrically transformed by the power of his prose, which is beguiling, funny, beautifully poetic, and always keenly observed. Black Swan Green is just gorgeous." (Daily Mail)
"Shunning the more flamboyant storytelling methods of his earlier novels, Mitchell has written a book that brilliantly captures the awkward intensity of adolescence." (The Sunday Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (187 )
5 star
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4.0 (44 )
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Story
4.0 (44 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Kelly Leamington SpaUnited Kingdom 23/03/2007
    Kelly Leamington SpaUnited Kingdom 23/03/2007 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Welcome nostalgia"

    I loved this book on a variety of levels. As a fellow child on the cusp of becoming a teenager in the early 1980s, the references and the way that the narrater felt and spoke filled me with an immense sense of nostalgia. I was excited each time a new memory was sparked - pac man, the music playing, playing red rover... The real strength of the book for me, however, was the powerful use of language, particularly the one-line descriptions of the weather and the landscape. The sky being 'etcher-sketcher grey' will stick in my mind for a long time. This felt like the real experience of a real child, feeling isolated because of a stammer, the need to belong, what it is like to explore and learn about the world of relationships with friends, family, bullies, first loves, and other almost random interactions. This was a beautiful book and I loved it.

    29 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emma Uplyme, Lyme Regis, Dorset, United Kingdom 10/08/2009
    Emma Uplyme, Lyme Regis, Dorset, United Kingdom 10/08/2009 Member Since 2013
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    "Unmissable"

    I listened to this and loved it. So did my eleven and fourteen-year-old boys, who still talk about it now. One of the most convincing evocations of childhood before parental paranoia and Playstations took all the fear, fun and freedom out of it. Jason's insights are accurate and often hilarious, his observations absurdly poetic and yet right on the mark, and his desciptions of various events - notably his passage through the neighbouring back gardens - some of the most intense and vivid you'll ever encounter. Mitchell reveals himself as a master of character as well as language.

    Moreover, it's wonderfully narrated by Chris Nelson, who has just the perfect voice and tone for 'Jace'. 'Black Swan Green' could challenge 'A Little Stranger' as my favourite audiobook of all time, but is definitely top of my list for the sheer brilliance of its narration.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Boston, United Kingdom 24/08/2010
    Paul Boston, United Kingdom 24/08/2010 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Black Swan Green - One of the very best."

    This is one of the best books I have ever read/listened to. The characters are really well drawn and dialog is brilliant.

    It made me laugh out loud in places. Two highlights were the speech made by the vicar's wife about gypsies and the description of the school disco. If you were 'there' in the 80s (teacher or pupil) you will know what I mean when you read it.

    The narrator was fantastic.

    A pure delight.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Sandford, Crediton, United Kingdom 23/02/2011
    David Sandford, Crediton, United Kingdom 23/02/2011 Member Since 2010
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    "AN UNEXPECTED PLEASURE"

    This was surprisingly different from David Mitchell's recent historical novel. I might not have chosen this book if I'd realised it was a coming of age novel narrated by a teenage boy but it was very well written and read.It deals honestly and perceptively with the world of thirteen year old Jason Taylor , capturing the crippling insecurities and anxieties of his adolescence.It is very insightful on the psychology of bullying and would be a useful book for any parent of teenage children.I would have loved more of his old Belgian mentor,the acerbicly wonderful Ava. Her first appearance brought the book to life suddenly, just when I was beginning to tire of his unremarkable family.There is a deal of humour and the narration is excellent.
    All the characters grow and develop in subtle ways in the course of the twelve months which the tale spans.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john miller 09/04/2013
    john miller 09/04/2013 Member Since 2012
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    "Adrian Mole in Thatcherland!"

    One of the best book-reading experiences I have had in years! Everyone in my book-club found it hilarious and immensely entertaining as well as full of pathos!David Mitchell brilliantly conjures up the spirit of the time with the background of the Falklands War and reader Chris Nelson just's IS that 13-year-old boy, struggling with his dysfunctional family and trying to reconcile puberty with his poetic instincts. What is particularly impressive is the way that the inner world of the protagonist is injected with excitement and even mystery, as well as having never a dull moment. Some people have found some of Mitchell's earlier work a bit heavy-going, but it is difficult to imagine anyone encountering resistances here. Author and reader bring off a real tour de force!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin Kew, United Kingdom 08/04/2013
    Colin Kew, United Kingdom 08/04/2013 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Another Blinder"

    I've read or listened to 4 of DM's books now and they are all wonderful. I think this one is a close second to Jacob de Zoet. The atmosphere - a backdrop of my own childhood times - was really well done and the character was really relatable too. Just writing this review makes me want to go back and listen to it again now... hm...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crispin 02/05/2008
    Crispin 02/05/2008
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    "Coming of Age in the Eighties"

    If you also grew up in the eighties this will be a nostalgic trip. If you didn't you can still enjoy David Mitchell's wonderful characterisation and ability to capture the thoughts and language of a thirteen year old. Great story telling and gripping from start to finish. I wasn't 100% sold on the young reader to begin with - but actually he is excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    angela goodman 31/01/2015
    angela goodman 31/01/2015
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    "Beautifully written and narrated."
    If you could sum up Black Swan Green in three words, what would they be?

    Absorbing, lyrical and touching


    What other book might you compare Black Swan Green to, and why?

    It's a growing up (or 'coming of age') novel - the world as seen through an intelligent and articulate but very naive 13 year old boy's eyes - adults reading this will understand and read between the lines the things that Jason himself isn't aware of. It could hold its own in the company of LP Hartley's The Go Between, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Sue Townsend's Diary of Adrian Mole. To anyone who wants to know or remember what the 1980s were like in England the descriptions are all too vivid and Jason's life in a Worcestershire village is set against the background of larger events such as the Falklands War. Readers of other David Mitchell books will see cameo appearances by characters from other books... Cloud Atlas The Bone Clocks and the 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I'd recommend all those too...


    What does Chris Nelson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Chris Nelson has exactly the right voice for the adolescent Jason Taylor. He doesn't quite get all the accents quite right but then neither would Jason. The voices of Jasons' parents, teachers and peers at school are utterly varied, believable and a real pleasure to hear. He also manages to bring out the lyrical qualities of the wiring and of Jason's poetic observations.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annie Kew Gardens 15/01/2015
    Annie Kew Gardens 15/01/2015 Member Since 2014

    Annie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very entertaining"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this audiobook mainly because it was a total pleasure to listen to. The narration was excellent and full of character. I am a fan of David Mitchell (having read The Bone Clocks and also Cloud Atlas) and I wasn't disappointed with this either.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story takes you through a range of episodes that take place over a year in a young boys life. l liked how you were able to understand things from a range of perspectives in spite of the innocence of the narrator.The story comes full circle and ties up loose ends at the conclusion. There are subtle complexities in the plot that hint at David Mitchell's later novels. Some poetic patterns emerge in the storyline that are very interesting and there is a character set up here that appears in The Bone Clocks. I enjoyed discovering that.


    What does Chris Nelson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    I was totally convinced by this narration. It was the perfect marriage of voice with story. I involuntarily laughed out loud on more than one occasion. Lots of character and life. Really good.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was touched by this story but probably found it more amusing than otherwise. As stated before, found myself suddenly snorting in response to the delivery of some of the one liners.


    Any additional comments?

    I did occasionally wonder what age range it was written for as it is a type of "coming of age" story. However I loved it anyway and was sorry when it had finished. Recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    EmmCeeSq 11/11/2014
    EmmCeeSq 11/11/2014 Member Since 2013
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    "Good book - toe-curlingly bad reading"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Very engaging book - if you're a fan of David Mitchell you'll probably like this one. I'm a 'younger' reader, so some of the Falklands references aren't as resonant to me as they might be to those who remember these events. A compelling coming-of-age-in-boring-nowhere account.


    How could the performance have been better?

    I hate to be so critical, but the reading is awful. Stumbled-over words and hesitations that are left in the final edit, terrible (I mean, really terrible) accents, and stupid voices (female voices in particular are embarrassingly bad) which detract from the book itself. I just couldn't get past how bad the reading was - it really interfered with being able to focus on the story. Well below the quality I've come to expect.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Andrew
    mORRINSVILLENew Zealand
    22/06/07
    Overall
    "Simply wonderful."

    I first came across David Mitchell when I rented the Audio Book version of his novel “Cloud Atlas” from my local library. By the time this unabridged edition had run its course I was both breathless and astonished. Cloud Atlas is multi-layered and absorbing story that concludes with a subtle yet bold statement on human existence. Of course when I discovered that Audible had Mitchell’s latest novel “Black Swan Green” available, I quickly snatched it up in anticipation more literary fireworks, and I was not disappointed. This story concerns Jason Taylor, a boy on the cusp of adolescence. In this well observed and deeply insightful character study we become privy to Jason’s innermost thoughts through the course of a year as he comes to terms with a world that is rapidly changing around him. We partake in his trails, identify with his naivety, remember our own burgeoning sexuality, take pleasure in his humour and admire his courage as he takes bold, yet considered steps toward a new course of life. This book is a profound reminiscence of a time of life that that is gone in the blink of an eye. Mitchell is a writer with a unique talent, please download this book, it is simply wonderful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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