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Black Swan Green

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  33,774 ratings  ·  3,141 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
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by Random House (first published April 11th 2006)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  33,774 ratings  ·  3,141 reviews


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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 abo
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s.penkevich
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 period'The
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Tim
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I look forward to reviewing a book; other times it can feel like an unwanted chore, like mopping the floor. This falls into the latter category. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – I did – but because I can’t find much to say about it. It’s about a thirteen year old boy who is bullied at school. As a parent boys are difficult at thirteen. The spontaneity and moments of genius have retreated behind double glazing. A surly self-consciousness has replaced the old inclination to dig and dance ...more
Em Lost In Books
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have a soft spot for coming of age books. So whenever I start a coming of age, I keep chanting, "please be good". I hate it when I don't like such story as I think they are beautiful, if written in right way, and perhaps one of the hardest kind to write. It's difficult to capture the emotions of an adolescent. It's such a tender age where kids are coming to terms to with life, when they try to fit in or hide away; when parents let them come out of their shadows and the brutal world is trying t ...more
Greg
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 book
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Agnieszka
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who still remembers own 13 year-old self

I have failed to understand why this novel is sometimes disregarded even by Mitchell’s admirers. Because Mitchell accustomed us with his earlier works to something more bizarre and flamboyant ? Because Black Swan Green is so … ordinary ?

Adolescence is a real torture, especially for sensitive, smart but morbidly lacking of self-confidence one. And so Jason is. Thirteen-year-old from some jerkwater town, struggling with own deficiencies and fears. In some respects Jason has really ro
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Richard Derus
May 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pearl-ruled
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 read through or Pearl Ruled unpleasant to the point o
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Peter Boyle
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Mitchell is known for dazzling innovation and dizzying ambition. Intricately structured novels such as Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten are grand kaleidoscopes of intersecting voices and places. This book is a change of pace, however. It focuses on a single character in a single location. But despite its narrowed scope, it is no less powerful or captivating than his other works.

Jason Taylor is our hero, a thirteen-year-old boy in the sleepy middle-class town of Black Swan Green, Worcestershire. On
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Megha
Jul 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews

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 t
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Jessica
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
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." ...more
Ron
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: coming-of-age, owned
What I noticed while reading this book spanning a year in the life of Jason Taylor, our main character and narrator, is how real it felt. Real enough to be biographical. Turns out that it is semi-biographical. One year that strictly followed David Mitchell's actual life at 13? No, probably not. Like most books written of memories plucked out of the past, I believe that much here is fiction, but who could say exactly, excepting Mitchell himself. I do know that pieces, whole sections even, were so ...more
Ian "Marvin" 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
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Michael
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Shovelmonkey1
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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," whic
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JSou
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Laysee
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing

“Black Swan Green” is a tender story about 13-year-old Jason Taylor and the challenges of adolescence. The teenage years can be tumultuous but significantly harder for Jason on account of a debilitating stammer.

In Jason, Mitchell successfully created a young protagonist I quickly grew to love and wished to defend. He was having a tough time at school and even his older sister disdainfully referred to him as "Thing". But Jason was a bright kid with a gift of writing. Sadly for him, his poems, pu
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Lynne King
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a beautifully written book but I'm going to make a contradictory statement here - it is not for me.

Jason Taylor is a delightful boy, for most of the time that is, but my attention began to wander after a couple of chapters. The book did not fulfil my expectations. A quick skim through the book and then that was the end of that.

A shame really as it held such promise initially. Perhaps I will try and reread it at some later stage in my life.
Aubrey
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Matthew Quann
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: david-mitchell
So ends my reading of all of David Mitchell’s published material to date!

Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s most personal work to date and it’s also one of his stronger novels. There’s none of the experimental, fractured narrative that made Cloud Atlas such a unique read, nor are there the magical, mystical, or otherwise supernatural individuals that populate The Bone Clocks. Instead, it seems like Mitchell decided to tell more straightforward narratives in the wake of his most famous work. Both Black Swan Green and The
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Darwin8u
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
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.
Rachel
“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’.”


Black Swan Green is David Mitchell's semi-autobiographical novel about a thirteen year old boy, Jason Taylor, growing up in Worcestershire England in the 1980s. This is a bildungsroman about navigating adolescence, which captures with aplomb how absurd and hypocritical and draining the whole experience is. But it's also a novel filled to the brim with hope and humor, told w
...more
Chris_P
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: david-mitchell
I've been trying to find the words to write a proper review but looks like they're avoiding me. Maybe I'm out of form or it could be that Black Swan Green is a hard one to write about? Either way, I'm at a loss, so be warned, this is by no means a proper review.

The jury has come back in, ladies and gentlemen, and the verdict is clear. David Mitchell is brilliant. This is the fourth of his novels I've read so far and I can't help but wonder how the man does it. Black Swan Green may not be as ma
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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 strugg
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Cecily
There is little narrative drive, but Mitchell is pretty much my age and this is heavily autobiographical, so I enjoyed being transported to a fairly accurate version of a world I remember. I could imagine knowing someone like Jason, maybe even being him some of the time.

The narration by a stuttering 13 year old boy is slightly reminiscent of Mark Haddon's Curious Incident, but not as convincing or interesting.

It mentions specific 70s brands and products too deliberately - as if he's trying to make it u
...more
Joy D
Filled with 1980’s nostalgia, Black Swan Green transports the reader to a small town in Worcestershire, England, where thirteen-year-old narrator and protagonist Jason Taylor is dealing with the familiar challenges of adolescence. We follow his life in this small town as he seeks acceptance, observes the growing disharmony in his parents’ marriage, clashes with schoolyard bullies, battles a stammer that makes him agonizingly self-conscious, secretly writes poetry, and begins to mature into a more sel ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Run across a field of daisies at warp speed but keep your eyes on the ground. It’s ace. Petalled stars and dandelion comets streak the green universe. Moran and I got to the barn at the far side, dizzy with intergalactic travel.”
Every childhood is unique so every book about childhood is capable to add something new and if the book is good it makes a reader return to one’s own childhood and to compare one’s own experience with the feelings and impressions of the main character.
And Bl
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fourtriplezed
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-fiction
I find writing reviews of very popular books difficult. I know that there are creative reviews that are so good that I have to admit that I not just enjoy reading them but I find myself envious as well. This is my forth David Mitchell book. I have read them from his debut and in order and have had trouble putting forward my thoughts on them to be honest. Ghostwritten and Number9dream were for me very good. Cloud Atlas was verging on genius such was its impression on me. I thought that Black Swan ...more
Steve
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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!
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 ti
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10,597 followers
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
“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’.” 389 likes
“Trees're always a relief, after people.” 177 likes
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