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Black Swan Green [Paperback]

David Mitchell
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
Price: £10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 May 2006

Jason Taylor is 13, doomed to be growing up in the most boring family in the deadest village (Black Swan Green) in the dullest county (Worcestershire) in the most tedious nation (England) on earth. And he stammers. 13 chapters, each as self-contained as a short story, follow 13 months in his life as he negotiates the pitfalls of school and home and contends with bullies, girls and family politics. In the distance, the Falklands conflict breaks out; close at hand, the village mobilises against a gypsy camp. And through Jason's eyes, we see what he doesn't know he knows - and watch unfold what will make him wish his life had been as uneventful as he had believed.

Vividly capturing the mood of the times - high unemployment, Cold War politics and the sunset of agrarian England - this is at once a portrait of an era and of an age: the black hole between childhood and teenagerdom.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; Export ed edition (8 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340839260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340839263
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature prizes and the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well. David Mitchell's sixth novel is The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, September 2014).

He now lives in Ireland with his wife and their two children.

Product Description


His wildest ride yet . . . a singular achievement, from an author of extraordinary ambition and skill . . . For the third time in a row, Mitchell has excelled himself. (Independent on Sunday on CLOUD ATLAS)

A tremendous novel . . . one of the most shamelessly exciting books imaginable (Philip Hensher, Spectator on CLOUD ATLAS)

Exceptional . . . clever, unusual, gripping and beautifully written (Literary Review on NUMBER9DREAM)

Resounds to the same marvellous chatter of voices that marked out Ghostwritten, his outstanding first novel (Observer on NUMBER9DREAM)

The best first novel I have read in ages . . . the novel beguiles, informs, shocks and captivates. (William Boyd, Daily Telegraph Books of the)

Fabulously atmospheric and wryly perceptive . . . a huge new talent (Guardian Books of the Year on GHOSTWRITTEN)

Book Description

David Mitchell comes home - to England, 1982, and the cusp of adolescence. A novel that will surprise and delight his many fans

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writer of many voices still scores with just one 12 Jun 2007
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Mitchell is a fantastic writer, continuing to display chameleon skills with every book. he can write, truthfully, with several different voices, and in several different styles.

In this book, on one level he damps down his pyrotechnics,by staying with one narrator throughout, rather than 'linking' different stories.

What he ends up with is a book of more traditional structure, following the journey of a adolescent boy, growing up in the early 80's in Worcestershire, with his own painful and often funny adolescence set against a backdrop of the Falklands War.

Whilst Mitchell can easily match Sue Townsend (Adrian Mole) with comedic touches, he also connects with something much more visceral and poignant.

His engaging narrator learns a lot in the space of a year about some very adult issues. This is a much easier book to read than Mitchell's others, and his craft is displayed much less flamboyantly, but is no less satisfying
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully constructed novel 23 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very impressive story of teenager coming to terms with the world around him in the 1980s. The tale tells of the thirteen months of Jason's life between childhood and adolescence - the stammering, the bullies, the family strife, the Falklands War and the diverse and strange characters living in his village. As a sensitive, intelligent boy Jason has to make his way in life through a maze of dangers - knowing which boys to avoid, not using the wrong words, wearing the right clothes, not letting anyone know he writes poetry etc. The whole book is laden with cultural and historical references: Curly Whirlies, Thatcherism, Gotcha and ZX Spectrums.

An authentic narrative voice is in turns funny, perceptive and moving. In parts it is desperately sad (even though Jason expresses no self pity) but is ultimately positive and uplifting. Beautifully constructed novel and exuberant language.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, gets great towards the end 10 Jun 2006
The first thing I noticed about this book was its discrete nature. David Mitchell has written a selection of short stories, albeit with some continuity, about the life of a 13 year old rather than a continuous novel. This to me was sometimes frustrating: we meet characters/explore ideas in some chapters which we barely see again.

That said, I eventually got immersed in the central character, saw many parallels with my own experiences, and left feeling satisfied. Everything seems to come together during the last quarter, although it's clear that the story will go on long after we have departed.

In both this book and the mesmerising 'Cloud Atlas' (sorry to bring it up!) Mitchell succeeds is making us sympathise with his characters, but, cleverly, he makes us do so at different levels for different ones. The result is to make the tale more believable and to question both Jason Taylor's (and therefore our own) perception of what's going on.

Mentioning 'Cloud Atlas,' I should point out that not one but two characters from that book appear here. Maybe there are more that I've missed. I won't, however, ruin it by saying who, but their appearances don't seem too forced and it's nice to see more of them.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. His previous will always be my favourite though.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly a triumph 30 Aug 2007
Not quite an unqualified eulogy from me although I enjoyed reading it immensely hence the 4 stars. Mitchell sets out to convince us this is 1982 by loading the period references to an alarming - even excessive - degree; typically no opportunity is passed to give precise details of a meal, pop tune, clothes or whatever in order to re-emphasise that this is 1982, and this occasionally leads to clunky dialogue or stilted prose, eg when an adult refers laboriously to "Kay's Catalogues in Worcester" (a person would simply have referred to "Kays") or when Jason himself points out that the sweets from the jar in the shop come served up in paper bags (as they always were back then - in 1982 you wouldn't think to point it out). The artificial overloading of period data inevitably leads to the occasional factual error, which also grates with a reader if he or she happens to spot them. One or two other plot devices fail - we know the young sailor is serving on HMS Coventry so we can guess immediately what his fate will be. I felt he could have been put on a lesser known ship with more devastating impact (Who remembers now the ships that took hits and casualties but were not lost, like HMS Glamorgan?) The scene in which the young sailor had nightmares about combat before the Task Force was even dreamt about were overdramatised and silly - until the actual conflict and the inevitability of combat loomed he would have had no more fear of the terror of war than his former schoolfriends - The navy was just about the safest place to be until May 1982. Read more ›
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Swan Green 19 Aug 2006
Anyone who is a fan of David Mitchell (and even those who have not read him) will love this book. However, don't expect the style of his previous books: Number 9 Dream, Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten. This is the story of a year in the rather eventful life of Jason Taylor, a boy of 13 growing up in a village called Black Swan Green, Worcestershire, in the early 1980s. Jason, apart from being quite a normal 13 year old, is a stammerer who tries desperately hard to hide his 'secret' from the rest of his schoolmates. His story of his experiences at school is one that anyone who was a teenager can identify with: how he sees his parents, the teachers, bullies, and those strange creatures called girls. But what makes this teenage narrative come alive, what makes you feel like you are there with Jason Taylor is the often brutal honesty with which he tells his truth. He says all the things you thought about as a teenager growing up but didn't dare to articulate. Mitchell also manages to evoke a nostalgia for the 1980s, and his detailing is superb. You remember how you or your parents or friends felt during the recession, or the public mood during the Falklands War. And there is also a nice touch where Mitchell quite unexpectedly introduces a character from one of his stories in Cloud Atlas.

The English countryside and village life is portrayed without the slightest hint of romanticism. A teenage boy doesn't see life like that. This is life in the raw. Jason sees the often brutal contests between boys to establish a pecking order, he is afraid of being ridiculed or beaten up after school, he worries about his status among the rest of the kids and he wonders if he will ever have a girlfriend. Life for young Jason Taylor is very serious indeed. In Black Swan Green, Mitchell makes a rather unpromising subject tense and fascinating. And it's a real pageturner -- you just have to know what happens next. Just buy this book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely brilliant, so 'David Mitchell.' There's nothing more to say read it and find out for yourself.
Published 16 days ago by Mrs. V. A. Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A funny, touching narrative voice makes a delightful insight into this 13year old boys head. Despite being female and never having been alive in the '80s I loved every second of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mae Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars St Ives Maid
A well written book which covers lots of life's issues. Took me a while to get into but couldn't put it down eventually. Every teacher should read.
Published 5 months ago by St Ivesmaid
5.0 out of 5 stars A portrayal of a teenage stammerer that I recognise
David Mitchell's fourth novel is narrated by Jason Taylor, a 13-year-old boy who, when he is in the hands of The Hangman who seeks to strangle his voice, stammers. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dr R
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite five star read: a novel on the English male adolescent...
This novel is the antidote to Philip Hensher's "Northern Clemency". David Mitchell in telling the story of Jason Taylor's mostly terrifying coming of age in Middle England and in... Read more
Published 8 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into
This book was recommended by a friend. I found it dull and very difficult to get into. Very little happens.
Published 9 months ago by Mark Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight into the mind of an adolescent boy
The first dozen or pages didn't grab me but before too long I was engrossed in Jason's story. I am not a fan of poetry, however I loved the tale of how poetry came to be in... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Carrie.J
5.0 out of 5 stars bullied but bright
Told from a thirteen year old's point of view, this collection of stories about how a stammerer is bullied and humiliated, but survives with intelligence, makes you identify with... Read more
Published 10 months ago by rod 210
5.0 out of 5 stars Black swan green
I read this after someone recommended it on holiday. I really enjoyed it- easy reading and very funny in parts.
Published 10 months ago by Jo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great description of 80s england
I loved this book. It evoked powerful memories of 70s-80s england with humour and a light touch. I would highly recommend it,so much so it encouraged me go on to read several more... Read more
Published 12 months ago by C. R. Tregidgo
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