Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

About the book

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.

Reviewed by Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group:

A funny, sad and thoughtful book. Mitchell’s portrayal of a 13 year old life experiences was very true to life and the understanding and kindness of his teachers of his difficulties was very heart warming. The book was well researched which made for a very nostalgia read for the group.

Star rating: ***

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8 thoughts on “Black Swan Green by David Mitchell”

  1. Review by Hawkley Reading Group:
    Many of us were reminded (painfully) of our adolescence. We tended to be split between finding it a ‘misery memoir’ or actually, in spite of much of the narrative, quite upbeat. Felt the author/narrator slipped into some over-sophisticated observations thus the ‘voice’ faltered.
    Star rating: ***

  2. Review by Brats et Al Reading Group:
    We felt the book was an accurate portrayal of the early 1980s and brought back memories of the time. The book was easy to read and was an interesting insight into the mind of a 13 year old boy. We found the story rather disjointed and felt that some story elements were introduced and not expanded. The group was equally split about whether they would recommend the book.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Readers for Pleasure:
    The group generally, aged 62-80, did not enjoy this book as could not relate to teenage boys thoughts! However, on a personal level i thought it both amusing and perceptive. I have a 14 year old grandson and he enjoyed it and said it was pretty representative of that age group.
    Star rating: **

  4. Review by Enjoying Books Reading Group:
    Fascinating insight in to the mind of a teenager – wonderful characters – very sympathetic view of a stammerer and the trials of adolescence. very amusing and yet poignant. Our only criticism is that there was too much dialogue.
    Star rating: ***+

  5. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:
    Well worth persevering past the first chapter to a truly bitter sweet story. There is some ‘bad language’ but it is entirely in context with the 13 year old boys using it.
    Star rating: ***

  6. Review by The Pageturners Reading Group:
    Semi – autobiographical, this novel charts 13 months int he life of 13 year old Jason, in a 1980s rural village. He has a stammer, is bullied and his home life isn’t too great either. Described as Bildungsroman (the growing up or coming of age of a sensitive person who is looking for answers and experience). Mitchell captures the hopes and fears of a very young teenager, sibling and parental relationships and the essence of friendship. Very evocative of 1980’s. Very funny in parts, perhaps a little long in the telling?
    Star rating: ***

  7. Review by Reading between the wines:
    Easy and engaging read. Lovely back to the 80’s. We were just waiting for something to happen, but it was more of a stroll through a year in the life of…. Would still recommend. Lovely style of writing.
    Star rating: ***

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