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Black swan green : a novel /

Main Author: Mitchell, David
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Random House, 2006
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

On the heels of his critically acclaimed Cloud Atlas (2004), frequent Booker Prize nominee Mitchell has left behind complicated literary constructions for this beautiful, stripped-down coming-of-age story. Our 13-year-old narrator, Jason Taylor, lives in Worcestershire's Black Swan Green with his sister and his parents. Jason suffers from a stammer, and in order to keep above the bottom rung of the social ladder, he must go to extravagant lengths to avoid using stammer words (some days those that start with n; other days, s). And he must live in the wake of his brilliant sister and mediate between his parents. The anxieties and excitements of boyhood are captured extraordinarily well here. Some will argue that Jason doesn't sound 13 (he certainly has, per day, a lot more arrestingly beautiful thoughts than does your average 13-year-old), but the narrative voice is consistent, and readers will come to believe it. Indeed, it is Mitchell's brilliant ability to reproduce internal monologue that makes this story so mesmerizing. He reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page. --John Green Copyright 2006 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly 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. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

(See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Adolescent angst during the Margaret Thatcher-inflected year of 1982 is the subject of two-time Booker nominee Mitchell's lively (autobiographical?) fourth novel. It contrasts strikingly with the matter, and manner, of the intricate "systems novels" (Ghostwritten, 2000; Number9Dream, 2001; Cloud Atlas, 2004) that made his reputation, if only in the racy anguished voice of its 13-year-old narrator Jason Taylor. Jason, who grows up in a sleepy, quaintly named eponymous Worcestershire village, suffers from a mortifying speech defect (he stammers), his older sister Julia's stony condescension, his schoolmates' casual malice and repeated outcroppings of inopportune "boners." In short, he's a kid--albeit, in Mitchell's deft hands, an intriguingly sentient and thoughtful one. There are wonderful scenes of sexual near-discovery and boyish bravado set in the woods near Jason's home (in the vicinity of the Malvern Hills immortalized in William Langland's medieval poem "Piers Plowman"), which segue into more individual focus as we observe Jason's healing encounter with a reclusive "old witch," strained relations with his control-freak Dad (a harried supermarket manager) and weary Mum (who wants her independence) and an educative brief relationship with an aged bohemian (Madame Crommelnyck) who happens upon the poems Jason furtively writes (as "Eliot Bolivar") and--in the grandest of manners--undertakes to educate him. The episodic narrative thus proceeds through numerous embarrassments and enlightenments, within the confusing contexts of the Falklands War (Great National Crusade, or chauvinist folly?), Black Swan Green's communal plans to regulate the lives of its new gypsy population and Jason's painful adjustment to his own emergent life and the fact that the stable family relationship that has always sheltered as well as smothered him is a thing equally capable of growth, change and confusion. Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye--and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists. Copyright ┬ęKirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.