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Black Swan Green: A Novel

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Black Swan Green: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9781400063796
ISBN10: 1400063795
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Staff Pick

A single year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor is the focus of David Mitchell's incandescent new novel. The pedestrian village of Black Swan Green appears terribly ordinary for Jason, but the striking cast of characters he lives amongst, as well as the internal musings of his mind, take the reader to the emotional tumult of a young boy coming of age in Cold War England.
Recommended by John, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"[A] funny, poignant story...simply a pleasure....[Mitchell] follows Pound's exhortation to 'make it new': You've read it before, and then again, you haven't read it quite like this. Jason Taylor is a classic, stammer and all." Claire Messud, LA Weekly (read the entire LA Weekly review)

"Mitchell has written another complex novel, in which multiple themes run like streams of extra data beneath every incident, and understanding comes by the process of reading into a satisfying tangle of metaphor and reference. It is the best kind of contemporary fiction." M. John Harrison, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)

"Of all the books that I have read as an adult, the novels of David Mitchell have come closest to resurrecting my own childhood reading utopia....Black Swan Green is Mitchell's most adventuresome work yet. The difference is that while language previously played a supporting role to his formal experimentation, here he performs his experiments within the medium of language itself, and with brilliant results." Ruth Franklin, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys' games on a frozen lake; of "nightcreeping" through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason's search to replace his dead grandfather's irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran Lps, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher's recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell's subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

Review:

"For his fourth novel, two-time Booker Prize finalist Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, etc.) turns to material most writers plumb in their first: the semiautobiographical, first-person coming-of-age story. And after three books with notably complex narrative structure, far-flung settings, and multiple viewpoints, he has chosen one narrator, 13-year-old Jason Taylor, to tell the story of one year (1982) in one town, Worcestershire's Black Swan Green. Jason starts with the January day he accidentally smashes his late grandfather's irreplaceable Omega Seamaster DeVille watch and ends with Christmas, which, because of intervening events, becomes the last he spends in this sleepy Midlands hamlet. The gorgeously revealed cast includes Jason's brilliant older sister, sarcastic mother, blustering dad and a spectrum of bullies and mates. Jason's nemesis is an intermittent, fluctuating stammer: some days he must avoid words beginning with N; other days, S. Once he is exposed, the bullies taunt him mercilessly; there is no respite for the weak or disabled in Black Swan Green nor, as the realities of Thatcher's grim reign begin to take their toll, in England writ large. How Jason and his family navigate this year of change is the emotional core of this rich novel, but the virtuoso chapter is 'The Bridle Path,' wherein Jason, alone for one delicious day, searches for a tunnel fabled to have been dug by the Romans in order to rout the Vikings. What he finds along the way captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"After the sprawling scope and pyrotechnic style of his Booker Prize-nominated 'Cloud Atlas,' David Mitchell could have delivered nothing more surprising than this charming, quiet novel about a 13-year-old boy. In 13 connected stories that take place in 1982, young Jason Taylor describes his perilous trek through schoolyard trials, his budding interest in girls and the simmering tension between his... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye — and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] beautiful, stripped-down coming-of-age story....[Mitchell] reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"This book is so entertainingly strange, so packed with activity, adventures, and diverting banter, that you only realize as the extraordinary novel concludes that the timid boy has grown before your eyes into a capable young man. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Here the virtuoso ventriloquism of multiple voices and settings focuses only on Jason and his surroundings but to heightened comic and dramatic effect. Recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"[B]rilliant....In Jason, Mitchell creates an evocative yet authentically adolescent voice, an achievement even more impressive than the ventriloquism of his earlier books." Nell Freudenberger, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"There's so much to recommend this book....[T]he characters are wonderful — sympathetic, funny, perfectly drawn....Thus far, this is my favorite novel of 2006, and I won't be surprised if it turns out to be the best book I read all year." Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

"[A] genuinely pristine and personal work. Comparisons could be made to Roddy Doyle or Mark Haddon....But Mitchell has very much a voice of his own, and the child's poetry he brings to this novel is a pleasure to behold." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"[Mitchell] has a perfect ear for that most calamitous year, the first of the teens, when we come face-to-face with the volatile nature of life. There's plenty of sadness in that discovery, of course, but humor, too, and he spins them together subtly in this touching novel." The Washington Post

Review:

"Mitchell — who for my gelt is the best pure storyteller writing in English today — not only makes [the coming-of-age story] fresh and astounding and new, he does it by going out of his way to touch all the familiar bases..." San Diego Union-Tribune

Review:

"A testament of [Mitchell's] seemingly bottomless talent....[Mitchell] succeeds in infusing a simple coming-of-age story with his own brand of creative flair, his trademark gorgeous language and his pitch-perfect dialogue....[P]owerful and beautifully rendered." Rocky Mountain News

About the Author

David Mitchell is the author of Ghostwritten, Number9Dream, and Cloud Atlas, the last two finalists for the Booker Prize. Granta magazine named him one of Britain's best young novelists in 2003. He lives in County Cork with his wife and daughter.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

avinashkar, September 5, 2006 (view all comments by avinashkar)
As good as Mitchell's other work, this book is engaging from beginning to end. He puts you in the shoes of a young boy in this coming of age story, presenting him with sympathy without airbrushing the all too real compromises adolescents make. Mitchell's stylistic palette continues to amaze--his comfort with a variety of genres was on ample display in Cloud Atlas, and here he puts his skills to use in the service of a single genre and a more straightforward narrative with equally brilliant results.
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(19 of 32 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400063796
Author:
Mitchell, David
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
General
Subject:
Boys
Subject:
Villages
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Us
Publication Date:
April 11, 2006
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
294
Dimensions:
9.28x6.58x1.00 in. 1.17 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Black Swan Green: A Novel Used Hardcover
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$9.95 In Stock
Product details 294 pages Random House - English 9781400063796 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A single year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor is the focus of David Mitchell's incandescent new novel. The pedestrian village of Black Swan Green appears terribly ordinary for Jason, but the striking cast of characters he lives amongst, as well as the internal musings of his mind, take the reader to the emotional tumult of a young boy coming of age in Cold War England.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "For his fourth novel, two-time Booker Prize finalist Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, etc.) turns to material most writers plumb in their first: the semiautobiographical, first-person coming-of-age story. And after three books with notably complex narrative structure, far-flung settings, and multiple viewpoints, he has chosen one narrator, 13-year-old Jason Taylor, to tell the story of one year (1982) in one town, Worcestershire's Black Swan Green. Jason starts with the January day he accidentally smashes his late grandfather's irreplaceable Omega Seamaster DeVille watch and ends with Christmas, which, because of intervening events, becomes the last he spends in this sleepy Midlands hamlet. The gorgeously revealed cast includes Jason's brilliant older sister, sarcastic mother, blustering dad and a spectrum of bullies and mates. Jason's nemesis is an intermittent, fluctuating stammer: some days he must avoid words beginning with N; other days, S. Once he is exposed, the bullies taunt him mercilessly; there is no respite for the weak or disabled in Black Swan Green nor, as the realities of Thatcher's grim reign begin to take their toll, in England writ large. How Jason and his family navigate this year of change is the emotional core of this rich novel, but the virtuoso chapter is 'The Bridle Path,' wherein Jason, alone for one delicious day, searches for a tunnel fabled to have been dug by the Romans in order to rout the Vikings. What he finds along the way captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] funny, poignant story...simply a pleasure....[Mitchell] follows Pound's exhortation to 'make it new': You've read it before, and then again, you haven't read it quite like this. Jason Taylor is a classic, stammer and all." (read the entire LA Weekly review)
"Review A Day" by , "Mitchell has written another complex novel, in which multiple themes run like streams of extra data beneath every incident, and understanding comes by the process of reading into a satisfying tangle of metaphor and reference. It is the best kind of contemporary fiction." (read the entire TLS review)
"Review A Day" by , "Of all the books that I have read as an adult, the novels of David Mitchell have come closest to resurrecting my own childhood reading utopia....Black Swan Green is Mitchell's most adventuresome work yet. The difference is that while language previously played a supporting role to his formal experimentation, here he performs his experiments within the medium of language itself, and with brilliant results." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye — and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists."
"Review" by , "[A] beautiful, stripped-down coming-of-age story....[Mitchell] reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page."
"Review" by , "This book is so entertainingly strange, so packed with activity, adventures, and diverting banter, that you only realize as the extraordinary novel concludes that the timid boy has grown before your eyes into a capable young man. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "Here the virtuoso ventriloquism of multiple voices and settings focuses only on Jason and his surroundings but to heightened comic and dramatic effect. Recommended."
"Review" by , "[B]rilliant....In Jason, Mitchell creates an evocative yet authentically adolescent voice, an achievement even more impressive than the ventriloquism of his earlier books."
"Review" by , "There's so much to recommend this book....[T]he characters are wonderful — sympathetic, funny, perfectly drawn....Thus far, this is my favorite novel of 2006, and I won't be surprised if it turns out to be the best book I read all year."
"Review" by , "[A] genuinely pristine and personal work. Comparisons could be made to Roddy Doyle or Mark Haddon....But Mitchell has very much a voice of his own, and the child's poetry he brings to this novel is a pleasure to behold."
"Review" by , "[Mitchell] has a perfect ear for that most calamitous year, the first of the teens, when we come face-to-face with the volatile nature of life. There's plenty of sadness in that discovery, of course, but humor, too, and he spins them together subtly in this touching novel."
"Review" by , "Mitchell — who for my gelt is the best pure storyteller writing in English today — not only makes [the coming-of-age story] fresh and astounding and new, he does it by going out of his way to touch all the familiar bases..."
"Review" by , "A testament of [Mitchell's] seemingly bottomless talent....[Mitchell] succeeds in infusing a simple coming-of-age story with his own brand of creative flair, his trademark gorgeous language and his pitch-perfect dialogue....[P]owerful and beautifully rendered."
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