BookBrowse Reviews Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Black Swan Green

by David Mitchell

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood.

From the book jacket: 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.

Comment: 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.

I find it difficult to judge whether Black Swan Green will appeal to North-American readers (who are the majority of BookBrowse's visitors) because, having been born and brought up in England, I loved all the references to TV shows, foods, slang etc (I turned 18 in 1982 if you must know!) - but these references come so thick and fast that I would have thought that many parts would be almost incomprehensible to a non-British reader. However, the North American reviewers appear to love it, which just goes to show how good writing can transcend almost anything!

"Another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists." - Kirkus.

"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. [His] obvious efforts to please the reader work wonderfully, and the novel is never less than tremendously engaging." - The Toronto Star.

This review was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the February 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
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!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice


Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas--a place ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -