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Black Swan Green | [David Mitchell]

Black Swan Green

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 13-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in dying Cold War England, 1982. But the 13 chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy.
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Publisher's Summary

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 13-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in dying Cold War England, 1982. But the 13 chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissinger-esque 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 emigre 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.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell's subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

©2006 David Mitchell; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye, and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Gorgeous....Captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom." (Publishers Weekly)

"He reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (344 )
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4.1 (126 )
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4.3 (127 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 06-28-06
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 06-28-06 Member Since 2005

    Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Captivating"

    I absolutly loved this book and this author. I also have recently listen to Cloud Atlas. I love the voice of the character,13 year old Jason Taylor. He is a middle tier cool kid. This book is a funny, sensative and often heartbreaking look at how difficult it is to be a 13 year old boy and navigate your place in the food chain of boys in school, the mysterious draw of girls, world politics and family problems. The narrator is brillant. I couldn't stop listening because of his magical voice. He effortlessly breaths life into all of the characters in the book. I can't wait to read/listen to more by this author and I look to hearing more from this narrator.

    I can't say enough good things about this book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Tarasovic Richmond, VA 04-05-07
    Janet Tarasovic Richmond, VA 04-05-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The joys of teen misery"

    Top-notch, versatile narration of a lyrical coming-of-age story. Both Mitchell and Heyborne nail the voice of the awkward, angst-ridden boy who struggles with both inner and outer demons--a plague of stuttering, harrassment by village bullies and crazy old ladies, the mysteries of girls, a family that disintegrates even while he finds his strengths. British teenspeak and early 80s pop-music and political references add to the delight.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn jackson, WY, United States 10-20-06
    Carolyn jackson, WY, United States 10-20-06

    Avid Listener of Audible

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You gotta stick with it for a bit"

    At first I thought this book was boring; however, I am not one to give up on anything. The number of characters in the book are numerous and it was really hard to keep track of. In addition, some of the chapters end abruptly and you never really know what happened.

    The narrator does a fine job of speaking and I found myself imitating the boy's voice at times.

    You really feel for the character when his social life changes and (although not having experienced it myself) you can really empathize with the character.

    One chapter of the book I found to be very boring; however, overall it was a good read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ciscospice 12-11-10
    ciscospice 12-11-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It may no longer be cool to say this,"

    But this book was ...epic!

    Fabulous narration as well. I just listened to this for the second time and enjoyed it even more than the first time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 04-10-09
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 04-10-09 Member Since 2001

    American who loves French classics

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Book, Excellent Narration"

    Black Swan Green is beautifully read and immediately captures the listener's attention by the skill of the writing as well. Told from the point of view of a thirteen year old boy we witness not only his coming of age story, but also the picture of a particular historical moment in Great Britain. The young boy's insight grows not only in relation to his own immediate world but also in terms of political consciousness and his relationship to his parents and family. The story was raw as it demonstrates the awful cruelty of the young, honestly told in the way few novels achieve, without bitterness or rancor...it's just the way things are in this world and learning to deal with that reality is the act of growth that transforms the narrator. The reader is so perfect for this book I can't imagine it being read better.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. McClure Pelham, AL USA 03-09-07
    M. McClure Pelham, AL USA 03-09-07 Member Since 2001

    damack1

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of my favorites"

    I loved this book. The narrator was top-notch, and the story was engrossing. I found myself worrying about Jason at odd times during the day and night, when I wasn't listening to the book. There were also some really memorable phrases, the kind you hear, stop the the player, and think, "I've got to remember that one."

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Oakland, CA, USA 12-21-06
    Jason Oakland, CA, USA 12-21-06
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    "Particularly good narration"

    Especially in the second half or so of the book, the narrator really shines at doing all the voices, from the odd accent of old Madame Cromerlinck to the Gypsies and the horrid gossipy vicar's wife.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cranberry 07-17-06
    Cranberry 07-17-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very, very good"

    This is an enjoyable audiobook. Very easy to listen to, excellent narration. We've all been in similar situations to those encountered by Jason. We can all identify.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Marie Honolulu, HI United States 06-02-06
    S. Marie Honolulu, HI United States 06-02-06 Listener Since 2003

    S. Marie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clear, gripping prose"

    Just a really great story and easier to follow than Mitchell's other work- Could Atlas. Of the two, I preferred this one, although both are beautifully written. On the surface the story appears straightforeward, but then makes strange turns. I generally dislike literal novels and prefer immersive fantasy, but this was some of both.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-31-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-31-12 Member Since 2006

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "Best book about being 13 ever"

    I was blown away by Cloud Atlas so I had to give this a try. Initially, I was disappointed that there were no clever postmodern devices. This is a straightup narrative of the life of a 13-year-old boy. And I was initially skeptical since I've always thought this genre was done to death by American authors. It pains me to say it, but Mitchell does this better than any American author I've come across. Plus, it's just plain better than any YA novel I've come across period. It's totally accessible to the YA audience but it's not marketed that way. And while he may eschew postmodern gimmicks here, there's a sophisticated structure underlying it. What seems like a simple slice of life book is actually composed of a number of interlocking storylines that ultimately all contribute to our young protagonist's understanding of his world. There just seems to be no limit to the talents of David Mitchell.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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