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a dazzling read
Black Swan Green is the 4th novel by David Mitchell. It describes a year in the life of Jason Taylor, an intense, thoughtful but stammering thirteen-year-old budding poet living in darkest Worcestershire. Set in 1982, this is a very realistic rendition of the anxieties and challenges faced by teenagers in the early eighties. Each chapter details the events of one or more days in the months of that year. Through the beautiful prose of his narration, we join Jason in boyish adventures and coming-of-age rituals (first cigarette, initiation rites, first kiss), and we learn of his ambitions (poetry, forestry) and his anxieties (stammering, the Falklands war, his parents’ relationship, girls). In that time of life when image is all important and peer pressure is strong, Jason tries to navigate a path that does not betray his values and ambitions but doesn’t damage his credibility of make him look “too gay”. Jason’s relationship with his family and his true friends is heartwarming and the poet hidden inside the young man is apparent in his thoughts and descriptions. Ultimately, he finds the courage he needs to face his demons. His naiveté, observations and occasional ignorance make for many laugh-out-loud moments, but the scariest thing about this novel was that I knew all the songs and artists mentioned from first appearance. This coming-of-age novel is at least as good as Jasper Jones. A dazzling read.