Summary and book reviews of Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Black Swan Green

By David Mitchell

Black Swan Green
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2007,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 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.

JANUARY MAN

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 matter of life or death. Don't they? Dad's got an answering machine like James Garner's 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 League was 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 other I.D.'d got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our charred father in the terminal ward.

So I went ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Jason has ongoing internal dialogues with “Maggot” and “Unborn Twin.” What roles do Maggot and Unborn Twin play in Jason’s life? And what did Mitchell accomplish by employing this device?
  2. At the beginning of the novel, Jason fears that his stammer defines him. Why do you think he calls it "Hangman"? How does he learn to adapt to it? In what ways is the stammer a limitation and in what ways an advantage? Imagine Jason without a stammer–how would the novel be different?
  3. Mitchell often ends a scene in the middle of the action–for example, when Jason is locked in the House in the Woods, or when the fire erupts in Town Hall–and leaves readers to surmise for ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (674 words).

Media Reviews
Publisher's Weekly

He...captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom.

The Washington Post

There's plenty of sadness.....but humor, too, and he spins them together subtly in this touching novel

Kirkus Reviews

Another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists

Library Journal

British slang and cultural idioms color the prose of brilliant stylist Mitchell, who conveys an emotional rapport with his characters

The Globe and Mail

Warmly personal, funny and as matter-of-fact and grounded as [Mitchell's] other books are enigmatic and lofty, Black Swan Green has a strong autobiographical flavour. . . . An easy and enjoyable read, Black Swan Green is at its most compelling when the dialogue is fraught with tension. . . . [I]t offers more in the way of intimacy [than Mitchell's other work]: It offers a friendship with its precocious and well-meaning young narrator that persists well beyond the last word.

Toronto Star

Mitchell's rendering of time and place in this new book has a warm and lived-in feel. . . . [W]hat Mitchell has set out to do here – to capture the flux of youth, and to dazzle the reader with everyday, awkward human interaction rather than clever narrative conceits – is risky and rewarding. . . . Mitchell's obvious efforts to please the reader work wonderfully, and the novel is never less than tremendously engaging. . . .

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

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 ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

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.

...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Black Swan Green, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.