Saturday, July 19, 2008

Black Swan Green


Black Swan Green by David Mitchell was originally published in 2006. My paperback copy is 294 pages. Black Swan Green is about a year in the life of 13 year old Jason Taylor's. Each of the thirteen chapters follow a month, from January 1982 to January 1983, of Jason's life. The chapters can stand alone but add up to a powerful story of growing up in a small English town. Although it has been favorably compared to Catcher in the Rye, Jason Taylor is not as self absorbed and full of angst as Holden Caufield, and we see hope for Jason's future as he begins to stand up for himself and quits worrying about what others think. Mitchell is masterful in his dialogue. He really has authentically captured the voice of a 13 year old boy. The British slang will take some getting use to for American readers, but the finely developed characters are worth the effort. This is an epic novel. Rating: 5

Synopsis from book cover:

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 award-winning author David Mitchell creates an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy: a world of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré; of first cigarettes, first kisses, and first deaths; 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, humorous, profound, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s subtlest and most luminous achievement to date.


Quotes:

"Do not set foot in my office. That's Dad's rule." opening sentences

"Mind you, if they knew Eliot Bolivar, who gets poems published in Black Swan Green Parish Magazine, was me, they'd gouged me to death behind the tennis courts with blunt woodwork tools..." pg. 6

"Games and sports aren't about taking part or even about winning. Games and sports're really about humiliating your enemies." pg. 8

"I loathed myself for not putting Ross Wilcox in his place about speaking German, but it'd've been death to've started stammering back there." pg. 10

"Eavesdropping's sort of thrilling 'cause you learn what people really think, but eavesdropping makes you miserable for exactly the same reason." pg. 29

"It's not what you learn at university, it's....who you network with! Only at Oxbridge can you network with tomorrow's elite!" pg. 51

"Mum boasts to visitors and relatives how, no matter what, we sit round as a family to share an evening meal. She'd've done us all a favor if she'd given this tradition a night off." pg. 114

"A Pyrrhic victory is one where you win, but the cost of winning is so high that it would've been better if you'd never bothered with the war in the first place." pg. 115

"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." pg. 118

"Poets are listeners, if they are not intoxicated. But novelists....is schizoids, lunatics, liars." pg. 149

"Teachers're always using that 'in your own words.' I hate that. Authors knit their sentences tight. It's their job. Why make us unpick them, just to put it back together more shonkily?" pg. 210

1 comment:

Charley said...

I really enjoyed Black Swan Green. It took me a while to read it, but Jason Taylor's bizarre world drew me in. I liked the feeling of uncertainty with each chapter - I was never sure what Jason's fate would be from page to page.