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 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.
Do not set foot in my office. That's Dad's rule. But
the phone'd rung twenty-five
times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it's a
life or death. Don't they? Dad's got an answering machine like
in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he's
stopped leaving it
switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia
couldn't hear it up
in her converted attic 'cause "Don't You Want Me?" by Human
thumping out dead loud. Forty rings. Mum couldn't hear
'cause the washing
machine was on berserk cycle and she was hoovering the
living room. Fifty
rings. That's just not normal. S'pose Dad'd been mangled by
a juggernaut on
the M5 and the police only had this office number 'cause all his
got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our
charred father in
the terminal ward.
So I went ...
Poor old Jason, he's 13-years old, stuck in the most boring family, in the most boring village, in the most boring country on earth - to add insult to injury he stammers and has to submit his poetry to the local newspaper under an assumed name or he'd be teased unmercifully, and probably get beaten up. Mitchell captures the essence of 1982 Britain, from the high unemployment, Cold-War politics, and the Falklands war, down to the tiniest breakfast cereal detail, but he doesn't just capture an era, he also portrays that moment in time when a child becomes a teenager.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (674 words).
David Mitchell was born in Southport in 1969 and grew up in Malvern, England. He studied for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an MA in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent. He lived for a year in Sicily before moving to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England.
His first novel, Ghostwritten, was published in 1999, it tells the interlocking stories of nine narrators in nine locations across the globe. It won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
His second novel, number9dream (2001), set in modern-day Tokyo, was shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for fiction.
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