Black Swan Green Paperback – Feb 27 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Any "whingers" out there won't feel comfortable in Mitchell's new novel of burgeoning and cruel adolescent boys in the rural but hardly pastoral England village of Black Swan Green. Heyborne, who performed one of the characters in the audiobook of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, embodies the voice of 13-year-old Jason Taylor to perfection. His timbre is youthful and a tad reluctant, as might be expected of a teenager with a stammer who wants desperately to fit in with his rowdy friends. Jason's friends sound too much like Jason himself, but since they are viewed from Jason's perspective and since boys in a clique do tend to sound alike, the choices Heyborne makes are not problematic. The 1980s Worcestershire slang is more challenging, however. The addition of the letter "y" to words to form adjectives is somewhat "educationy," but it is sometimes hard to work through regionalisms that one cannot see in order to place them better. Although Mitchell's novel doesn't lives up to Lord of the Flies, which it derives from, Heyborne's performance is both compelling and compassionate, and the audio is entertaining and highly rewarding.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–Thirteen chapters provide a monthly snapshot of Jason Taylor's life in small-town England from January 1982 to January 1983. Whether the 13-year-old narrator is battling his stammer or trying to navigate the social hierarchy of his schoolmates or watching the slow disintegration of his parents' marriage, he relates his story in a voice that is achingly true to life. Each chapter becomes a skillfully drawn creation that can stand on its own, but is subtly interwoven with the others. While readers may not see the connectedness in the first two thirds of the book, the final three sections skillfully bring the threads together. The author does not pull any punches when it comes to the casual cruelty that adolescent boys can inflict on one another, but it is this very brutality that underscores the sweetness of which they are also capable. With its British slang and complex twists and turns, this title is not a selection for reluctant readers, but teens who enjoy multifaceted coming-of-age stories will be richly rewarded. The chapter entitled Rocks, which centers around the British conflict in the Falkland Islands in May 1982, is especially compelling as Jason and his peers deal with the death of one of their own. Mitchell has been hailed as one of the great new authors of the 21st century; with Black Swan Green, he shows again how the best books challenge readers' complacency.–Kim Dare, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Some great laughs included as well
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Black Swan Green takes place in a small English countryside town in 1982, and the book is flavored with Thatcher politics, British vernacular , and early 80's pop music. Unlike Mitchell's earlier novels, Black Swan Green is in many ways a novel about the pains and pleasures of the ordinary, and Jason scrutinizes the everyday with as much perception as major life events. Thirteen is an age where an embarrassment at school or a fight with one's parents takes on epic proportions, and yet time passes in such a way that last month's tragedies seem to fade into the distant past. Mitchell conjures this sense with such ease that Jason is a completely believable character, even as his thoughts reveal a remarkable sophistication.
In Cloud Atlas, Mitchell showed himself to be a master of the narrative voice, and in Black Swan Green he exceeds all expectations. Instead of writing what could have been an angst-ridden, self-fixated modern Holden Caulfield, Mitchell brings Jason out of himself with a well-rendered cast of supporting characters: his distant, workaholic father and his acidic mother, the merciless bullies at school, his fellow outcast friends, and various colorful townsfolk. Just as significant but more subtle are the internal characters that populate Jason's mind, including Unborn Twin (the voice of self-deprecation and fear) and his omnipresent arch-nemesis, the Hangman. Hangman is the embodiment of Jason's stammer, a speech impediment that often leaves "s" words frozen on his tongue.
I honestly cannot say enough positive things about this book; Mitchell's writing is gorgeous, Jason's insights at turns comic and heartbreaking. Black Swan Green is perhaps Mitchell's most autobiographic, and it certainly feels like the most grounded of his novels. Beware of the seeming simplicity - this book is neither ordinary nor typical. Rather than produce another quaint coming of age tale, Mitchell delivers a subtle and masterful rendering of an age that is nearly impossible to capture.
~ Jacquelyn Gill
BLACK SWAN GREEN chronicles thirteen months in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor --- each one of the thirteen chapters mirrors each of the thirteen months during the time in which the novel takes place --- told from his perspective and at his own meandering pace. Jason, his older sister Julie, and his parents inhabit the posh countryside of Black Swan Green, a slumbering village in South Worcestershire, England. The year is 1982 and England is entrenched in both the Cold War and the short-lived war over the Falklands. Life is fairly ordinary in the small town, aside from the occasional news reel intrusion, and so are the events that transpire throughout the course of the book.
What makes this book so captivating to read is precisely the simplicity of what's being described --- mainly, Jason's transition from adolescence into semi-adulthood. Over the course of thirteen months, he goes from being an awkward, prepubescent young boy with a pesky stammering problem to a soon-to-be young man with a backbone and a bit of experience under his belt. In the beginning, he is seen as an outcast, a weakling, a scab, and is relentlessly made fun of by his stronger, tougher peers. By the end, he has learned how to stand up for himself and has earned the respect not only of some of his tormentors, but of a certain young lady as well.
Although many will find the pleasure in witnessing Jason's ongoing mental and physical maturation process as familiar as watching that of any young person, what stands out as unique is the progression of his own particular self-awareness and the purity of his heart.
He is almost too creative and genuine for his own good (hence why he is constantly being picked on), yet completely unaware of his talents --- a rare occurrence in a boy that age. As a contrast to his gawky exterior, the way he expresses himself internally is downright poetic ("Listening to houses breathe makes you weightless"), and the steadfast earnestness with which he approaches life, albeit at an adolescent level, is incredibly humbling.
Over the course of thirteen chapters, Mitchell mixes just the right combination of insecurity, indignation and yearning to produce a series of vignettes, some of which are too precious to forget. His description in "Bridle Path" of Jason's day on his own while his family is away, first as the master of his house (putting his mother's mousse in his hair and drawing an Adam Ant stripe across his face; eating McVitie's Jamaican Ginger Cake and drinking a milk, coke, Ovaltine milkshake for breakfast; and listening to his sister's records at full volume), then as the brave explorer of the woods surrounding his home, is delightfully endearing and perfectly captures the spirit of what it's like to be young and carefree. In "Spooks," the description of Jason's initiation into a revered and secret club could have been lifted straight out of a young boy's journal, for all its excited eagerness, and the story of his first kiss in "Disco" is so full of nervous energy and longing that some readers might feel the urge to look away so as not to disturb the beauty of the moment.
The only event that may come as a shock is the very real nature of Jason's parents' failing marriage towards the end of the novel and the events that transpire following its collapse. But, in the wise words of now fourteen-year-old-Jason, "The world's a headmaster who works on your faults...you'll keep tripping over a hidden step, over and over, till you finally understand: Watch out for that step! Everything that's wrong with us...that's a hidden step. Either you suffer the consequences of not noticing your fault forever or, one day, you do notice it, and fix it. Joke is...There are always more."
BLACK SWAN GREEN is a true gem that seeps in at a snail's pace --- to be read and cherished for its wit, quiet and empathetic insights, and far-reaching appeal.
--- Reviewed by Alexis Burling
I can honestly say that reading Black Swan Green was fun. Honest to God, FUN! It's a really hard book to put down once you get into the story line and the way the chapters end always leaves you wanting to read on. Being that I am a teenager myself, following Jason along for this year of his life was interesting, amusing, and even thought-provoking because Jason's was a life that was far different from my own, but one I could get into just from reading the book. You really feel like you know Jason, you feel bad for his stammer, you want everyone to know how good a poet he is as Bolivar, and you root for him in all aspects. I even enjoyed the way the book was written, like how Jason explains the hangman who only troubles him with certain words that start with certain words on certain days. The book on a whole has great imagery and such vivid descriptions that it's not hard to feel the cold weather of England, or the heat that surely rushes to Jason's face out of embarrassment when he has to say things in front of the class.
Overall, I recommend this book highly. The chronology is a little difficult to grasp at first, but you get around to putting the pieces together just in time. I had to read this for school but i'm glad to own it and will probably read it again in the future when i'm just in the mood for a good book.
"Contrary to popular wisdom, bullies are rarely cowards.
Bullies come in various shapes and sizes. Observe yours. Gather intelligence.
Shunning one hopeless battle is not an act of cowardice.
Hankering for security or popularity makes you weak and vulnerable.
Which is worse? Scorn earnt by informers? Misery earnt by victims?
The brutal may have been moulded by a brutality you cannot exceed. Let guile be your ally.
Respect earnt by integrity cannot be lost without your consent.
Don't laugh at what you don't find funny. Don't support an opinion you don't hold.
The independent befriend the independent.
Adolescence dies in its fourth year. You live to be eighty."
David Mitchell, Black Swan Green.
Anyway its genius, genuinely moving at points with real heart and something i can imagine readers of all ages loving .Superb.