Black Swan Green
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Black Swan Green

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  16,922 ratings  ·  1,851 reviews
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 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 rig...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by Random House (first published 2006)
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s.penkevich
Oct 31, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: The kid in you
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Growing up is hard to do
Shelves: coming-of-age
'The world unmakes stuff faster than people can make it.'

Month by month our lives spiral forth into the future, with each moment shaping who we are and who we will become. It is no wonder that the pivotal years of adolescence, the stage of development classified by Erik Erikson as the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage, is fertile land for novels (if the nutrients of such land has been dried up from overuse of such topics is up for debate). Mitchell’s Black Swan Green examines this tumultuous per...more
Greg
I think it was the summer between eighth and ninth grades that I had an absolutely hellish summer camp experience.* For whatever reason I got branded as the person to pick on and just about everything that I did was turned into a series of 'jokes' at my expense.

I haven't thought of this experience in quite sometime, it's sort of one of those things that I just don't dwell on, but it was one of those times that seriously fucked me up. Some of the taunting that Jason Taylor goes through in this b...more
Jenn(ifer)
I’m about to start gushing over this book now, so look out. I may end up stammering my way through this review, but if I do, just consider it a tribute to Jason Taylor.

So Black Swan Green. This is the first David Mitchell book I’ve read but I assure you, it will not be the last. I loved everything about this book. I RELATED to everything about this book. True, I have no idea what it’s like to be a 13 year old British boy growing up in the 80’s, yet there is something so universal about this char...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 1.5* of five (p66)

Strike one: Teenaged protagonist.

Strike two, and ball one of strike three: Majgicqk. Or something like it.

Strike three: David Mitchell's writing reminds me of all the MFA program writing I've ever read.

I thought The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas were disorganized, and NO I did NOT misunderstand the fractured POV he used, I thought he did a poor job of executing it, and I found the preciosity of his phrasemaking in each of the three books I've either...more
Megha

Just as I opened the cover of the book, I was hit by a barrage of praise for the book comments. May be I should have stopped right there. But I didn't. Hence this review.

When I watch a Hollywood movie or a TV show involving American schools, I see schoolkids overly concerned with social status and pecking order. There are these popular and cool kids, then there are nerds and other such stereotypes. They have to constantly worry about whose parties they get invited to, who they are seen talking t...more
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: little british boys
Shelves: leetle-boys
I remember describing this book to a coworker:

Me: "It's about this little stuttering English kid who lives out in some little village during the Thatcher era, and sort of like, his coming of age kind of experiences?"

Coworker: "Oh God, that sounds awful."

Me: "No! I mean, I know it sounds awful the way I just explained it, but the book's actually really, really great!"

Two days later....

Me: (privately, to self) "Oh, God, this is awful."

I don't know what happened! This book started out really amazin...more
Ian [Paganus de] Graye
A Spelling Test

I kept this book on the shelf for a few years, before thinking I was ready to read it.

I didn't want to break the spell of the first two David Mitchell books that I had read (I didn't really like Cloud Atlas) and I was a bit apprehensive about the subject matter of a young teenage boy.

Ultimately, it was very much a book of two halves for me.

Teenage Mates Land

The first half captured male teenagerdom in the period in the 60's and 70's (when I grew up) and the 80's (when Jason grew...more
Shovelmonkey1
Feb 25, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Anyone who was a kid in the 1980's
Shelves: read-in-2010
Black Swan Green surfed out of David Mitchell after the literary ocean had swept up Cloud Atlas and smashed it repeatedly against the shore marked "greatness", where it burst open and loads of critical acclaim and literary awards came gushing out. I read Cloud Atlas first and managed to protect myself against the gushing geyser of praise by having a suitably large umbrella. Sadly my umbrella is mostly made of a thin but impermeable layer of cynicism so I didn't have as many lovely things to say...more
Michael
This warm and big-hearted coming-of-age tale of a 13-year old boy, Jason Taylor, set in rural south central England in the early 80’s has plenty of charm. It’s sweet, but not sappy. Its magic lies in the capturing of innocence of that age at that time and place, from the electricity of a first kiss and sickness from a first cigarette to the pull of dancing to the Talking Heads and of jingoistic feelings inspired by Maggie Thatcher’s war for the Falkland Islands. The dark side of things in this s...more
JSou
Why is it that bad memories from adolescence never seem to fade away? I mean really, it's been a pretty long time since I was in junior high, yet there's certain times that those memories come flooding back to the point where it feels like all those events just happened yesterday. Being a shy, bookish type girl did not go over well in the junior high social scene, believe me. I remember one day getting off the bus after school, enduring more than the usual amount of name calling and laughing, wh...more
Aubrey
This is a children's book written for the adult mind. All of the horrors and torments of the regular youth, the fighting parents, the schoolyard bullies, the secrets, the shame, are written in such a way that memories of your own childhood will be conjured up, emotions fresh as if it were yesterday. Throughout the story, the main character has insights that are a mix of childhood imagination and innate wisdom, as he goes through the motions of the daily life and all of its consequences. It is a...more
Madeleine
In every review of "Black Swan Green" I've read, the reviewer made sure to include some remark like "This isn't nearly as ambitious as 'Cloud Atlas'" or "I was expecting this to be more like 'Cloud Atlas' and, like, it totally wasn't." And that's really not fair to BSG because the two books are delightful and beautiful in their own ways for different reasons.

I had no idea what to expect from this book. I picked it up because I bloody love David Mitchell (and, yes, "Cloud Atlas," which I do adore...more
Tanuj Solanki
1) A novel written from the perspective, or in the voice, of an adolescent boy is nothing new.

2) A novel concentrating on the development of character through formative experiences, some of which are representative of the time he or she lives in, is nothing new. It is called a Bildungsroman.

3) A novel that highlights, or hints at, the fragility of family, or the frailty of marriage, is nothing new.

Mitchell trods on these, and other, well-beaten paths, striving all the time to deliver us somethi...more
Whitaker
David Mitchell is well on his way to becoming one of my favourite contemporary writers. He has an amazing ability to ventriloquise, to channel characters through his writing. Here, in this mash-up of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he seems to be channeling his younger self, self-conscious British teenage speak warring with the compressed imagery of the developing poet:

The lake in the woods was epic. Tiny bubbles were trapped in the ice like i
...more
Miina
Apr 09, 2008 Miina rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: my husband and anyone with a young teen
I think I am developing a serious author crush on David Mitchell. I am a 31 year old married woman and yet David (we're on a first name basis now because I've read two of his books, see) creates the 13 year old character of Jason Taylor in such a manner that Jason becomes EveryKid to me. I feel his adolescent pain, fictional construct though it may be, because I felt that kind of pain when I was a pre-teen. Once again, David brilliantly captures the spirit of his protagonist and the time through...more
Eh?Eh!
David Mitchell has no idea of how an American sounds like.
Annoying, the way eccentric characters are twirled into the story and twirled right back out.

I guess those are my only two reservations about this book, a coming-of-age story that feels spot on. Books where I can see myself, that vibrate with shared experience or shadows of familiarity, those are the ones that can slice to the deepest quick. This isn't one of them, since I wasn't a smart boy who was 13 in 1982 in a small village in Englan...more
Jonathan

David Mitchell must have the aim of writing something differently each time. I've heard that China Miéville's aim is like that too...

Either way it's very nice to see an author who tries to write in multiple genres rather than pigeon-holing himself as a fantasy, sci-fi or mystery writer.

I must admit that the three star rating is because the subject matter is not my preferred. I'm into the epic (a phrase used in this book no less), the grand ideas that extend beyond a novel that envelop all huma...more
·Karen·
David Mitchell tries to do something very ambitious in this novel. He writes about the life of a thirteen year old as if it were the thirteen year old writing, not some slightly older version of that person who can look back with wisdom and smile gently at his callow thirteen year old self. The narrator here is Jason, both a poet and a stammerer, and typically of thirteen year olds, liable to veer wildly between the acute and the cute, between great perception and great naivety, between longing...more
Cecily
No narrative drive, thus little impetus to read. The narration by a stuttering 13 year old boy is slightly reminiscent of Haddon's "Curious Incident" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), but not as convincing or interesting.

It mentions specific 70s brands and products too deliberately - as if he's trying to make it understandable far in the future, not at all how such a boy would have described things at the time. Also, it makes it read rather like Nigel Slater's "Toast" (http://www.good...more
Shirley
Of Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I'd thought, David Mitchell can craft some amazing prose, but it's overall a bit emotionally lacking. I felt like I was observing a masterpiece unfold from a distance in a grand museum (I prefer a gallery feel myself). I have not read Cloud Atlas, but one of my friends had noted that she found it "gimmicky," while another of my Goodreads friends wrote in her review that it "left me cold cold cold."

For me, Black Swan Green was different: the characters are fr...more
Maggie
I've heard this called a British Catcher in the Rye, and although the protagonist isn't nearly as depressed or angst-ridden, the comparison is apt. It's a beautiful, poignant character sketch of a fictional boy who I wished were real so I could be his friend. I loved it.
Alena
David Mitchell captured my soul from two different directions in this novel. First of all, he evoked coming of age in the 1980s perfectly. Even thought this tale is set firmly in England, I felt such a kinship for Jason Taylor as he struggled through his thirteenth year feeling out of place, tortured and completely adrift. Those are the hallmarks of 13 and Mitchell captures them honestly, with humor and without self-pity. It felt very personal to me.

Secondly, as the mother of boys, I read this b...more
Cindy
I freaked out last weekend when I found out that David Mitchell is doing a reading in town tonight for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Which is kind of funny on paper, because Cloud Atlas was the single work of his I'd read, and only gave it 4-stars. I liked it, but didn't fall in love with it, so why all the David Mitchell fan-fare? Ah, you see I heard a most excellent interview & discussion with Mitchell on the BBC World Service when they picked Cloud Atlas for their Book of the Mon...more
Patrick
Jul 25, 2008 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Fans of 'Freaks and Geeks'
Recommended to Patrick by: Steve

You never know what you're going to get when you read a 'coming of age' book. When you get right down to it, they're often very indulgent and narcissistic exercises in creative non-fiction masquerading as the experience of the typical (or atypical, as they'd want you to believe) teenager or young adult. Other times they can be very true to life and touching, if not altogether inspiring.

'Black Swan Green' sort of splits the difference between these two results. It's not a bad book, but it's not t...more
Emma
May 15, 2007 Emma rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Mand who also grew up in Worcs in the 1980s
Shelves: emmasreads
It may not be quite the epic and intellectual Cloud Atlas, but infinitely more enjoyable and unputdownable. Whereas Cloud Atlas had enjoyable episodes interspersed by (shall we say) more experimental writing, this more human novel deals with the rich tapestry of everyday life. Its details of the mundane are anything but - they are touching, gentle and they make you genuinely care about the characters.
The novel is written from the perspective of Jason the protagonist - but it is more like a two...more
Matthew
Growing up is tough going anywhere, and the town of Black Swan Green is no different. David Mitchell's novel follows Jason Taylor, a thirteen-year-old in 1982, as he navigates around a world filled with bullies, awkward love, confusing politics, and a family on the verge of disintegration. Each chapter is a different month in his life, so the novel reads episodically, but Mitchell's great strength is making each scene resonate with humor and pathos. He makes the ordinary seem epic and perfectly...more
Sarah Sammis
Black Swan Green takes place over the course of a year: from January 1982 to January 1983. There is one chapter for each month. Until the last chapter, the other twelve chapters read more like short stories than chapters in a novel. The plotting is subtle, often focusing on the mundane joys of life than on the big picture events.

The narrator of the book is thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor. He is like Adrian Mole but more likeable and probably smarter. His narration is told in the past tense, somew...more
Susan
This is a beautifully written book about Jason, a funny, resourceful, smart and intelligent thirteen year old, who faces his many problems and challenges.....a stammer, bullying, parents at war with each other......as well as all the usual difficulties of being a teenager, with bravery and honesty.
I feel that author David Mitchell gives a totally believable insight into how a boy of thirteen is affected by the pressures of growing up, and of trying to fit in and be accepted by his peers, of stru...more
Steve
I can’t wait to read more by this guy. It’s clear how Mitchell has such devoted fans. The only word of advice I would give to anyone before reading this tremendous coming of age story is to choose not to be bothered about whether a 13-year-old boy could, in real life, be such a polished and insightful writer. Just enjoy the fact that Mitchell is. He’s ace, as young Jason might say!
Darwin8u
Reading Mitchell for me is like experiencing J.D. Salinger again in high school or Don Delillo or Murakami in college. There are certain books you feel the author has almost hand-feed you emotionally and intellectually. This might only be objectively a 4.5 star book, but bugger objectivity, I loved it.
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Altruistic Acts in BSG 2 31 May 16, 2013 12:46PM  
The film 'This is England' (Shane Meadows, 2006) makes a nice companion piece to this book. 10 72 Sep 08, 2012 01:54PM  
Altruistic Acts in BSG 1 28 Apr 30, 2012 06:50PM  
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte...more
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Cloud Atlas The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Ghostwritten number9dream Cloud Atlas Vol. 1 of 2

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“If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.” 239 likes
“Me, I want to bloody kick this moronic bloody world in the bloody teeth over and over till it bloody understands that not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right.” 88 likes
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