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
"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)
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"A well told story told well"
I came across this book by chance searching for books by David Mitchell having read Cloud Atlas. Oh my goodness, what a find! Brilliantly written coming of age story set in the 1980's evoking memories of my own awkward teenage years in the same era. References to music and other popular culture of the time alongside key news issues made for a very nice trip down memory lane. Albeit a male character as the lead, this did not detract from my enjoyment as a female.
A well told story told well indeed. The icing on the cake was Chris Nelson's narration. Superb, believable characterisation, clear diction and amazing talent. Chris voices women like no other narrator I have come across (brilliantly) and makes following the different characters effortless. Well done and more from him please.
"Read this before CloudAtlas"
As it happens I have not read Cloud Atlas, only seen the utterly daft film. If that story is like the film then probably I would never have finished it and then would never have read Black Swan Green, which would have deprived me of a very good book. As an admirer of Adrian Mole, there are echoes of the young AM in the hero of BSG. The story is a serious one, not a comedy/satire in the AM style - though it's tone is affectionate rather than gritty or heavy. If like me you grew up in a small village in southern England (in my case in the 60's, for BSG its the 70s) you will find a lot of memories brought back as well as enjoying getting to know the characters. Like Mr Mole, I would love to read about what happens to them in later life.
"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!
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...
"Summer sunshine reading..."
The story of 1980’s teenager Jason Taylor made light reading for me over the two weeks that we spent on Menorca and whilst it was competent enough my first dip into David Mitchell was not as inspiring as my first dip at Cala’n Turquetta or the Murakami book that I read as the companion. The references back to contemporaneous touch-stones got a bit wearing and was beautifully parodied by Alan Partridge on the telly quite recently. It was OK - but not much more than that. I think it would take a lot of convincing to get me into the ‘teenager coming of age thing’ for sometime and I’d have to a bit of careful research before David Mitchell appears on my reading list on this showing.
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