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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

3.9 (351 )
5 star
 (133)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
4.0 (132 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (132 )
5 star
 (74)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (4)
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 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie 11-09-14
    Leslie 11-09-14

    reader, teacher, writer=happy person

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great intro to Mitchell's world: Black Swan Green"
    Any additional comments?

    Five stars to David Mitchell's unrelentingly real portrayal of one boy's 13th year. Jason Taylor is disturbed, eloquent, sweet, bawdy (in a 13 year old kind of way), unintuitive and unable to be anyone but himself. That last part is the trouble: no one accepts a 13-year-old who is true to himself, so he gets beat up on a regular basis. He has a rough time of it--an unrelenting stammer, a highly developed intellect which does not usually work in his favor, and a vicious internal life--he names his alter egos the Unborn Twin, Hangman and Maggot. But his talent for language (I know, ironic) and the picaresque episodes with unexpected allies put him in the driver's seat for the bildungsroman which is 8th grade. He emerges victorious, to take the challenges of 9th grade on--whether he wants to or not.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toby Portsmouth, NH, United States 10-05-14
    Toby Portsmouth, NH, United States 10-05-14 Member Since 2010

    Anglophile. Prefer only British fiction and mysteries. Good translations of Italian, too.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    119
    ratings
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    75
    75
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    Story
    "A boy's coming of age doesn't get much better"
    What made the experience of listening to Black Swan Green the most enjoyable?

    Everything. The reader seemed to BE the characters. I wish the book was longer.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The lad, of course! I did also like his sister, too. Even Hugo with his grisly dark side was just right for this perfect book.


    What about Kirby Heyborne’s performance did you like?

    I think the reader must have loved this book as much as I did and it came through. The pain, the little joys, the everyday-ness of being a boy in Yorkshire at age 13. It was moving and entertaining.


    If you could take any character from Black Swan Green out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    the lad of course. I would want to know how his poetry was developing and if he liked his new home in London.


    Any additional comments?

    David Mitchell is a perfect novelist, storyteller and poet. His command of prose takes my breath away. Literally.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wjgcz 03-23-08
    wjgcz 03-23-08 Member Since 2003
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    "Even better the 2nd time!"

    I listened to this book about a year ago and recently started listening to it again. I am enjoying it even more the 2nd time around. So much happens during the year in the life of Jason that you can't absorb it all the 1st time around. Great story and great narrator.

    1 of 1 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 4 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 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan SB Santa Barbara, CA United States 01-26-13
    Dan SB Santa Barbara, CA United States 01-26-13 Member Since 2008

    Dan

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    "You say Tomato"

    Captures life in 1980's middle England perfectly, disturbingly realistic depictions of small village & comprehensive school drudgery.
    A subtle coming of age story with one drawback, the narration.

    If the lead character of a novel is a 13 year old boy please audible, pretty please hire an English actor.

    The pronunciation of vowel sounds by this narrator are incredibly jarring. Pretty clearly an American doing an English accent and not all that badly EXCEPT for all of his vowel sounds!
    Not being English also leads to the narrator woefully mispronouncing place names and butchering regional accents that are scattered throughout the book.

    The narrators rhythm and acting skills are really quite good but he shouldn't be reading English characters without some guidance. Easier just to hire a Brit in the future, PLEASE!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam San Francisco, CA, United States 04-28-11
    Sam San Francisco, CA, United States 04-28-11 Member Since 2010

    Artist. Photographer. Devil.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Bizarre Pronouciations"

    Mitchell's pronunciation are so peculiar, it is taking away from the story for me. I have never heard an English accent so strange. It doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. I grew up in the West Country, as did he - and I have never heard anything like it. He says "Aunt" for Ant. He says "Urn Bru for Iron Bru". He says "Don" for Dawn. He says Gehrage for Garage. He says MalVERN instead of MALvern, he says Dotsun for Datsun, He says Aaahlice for Alice and the list goes on and on. Americans probably don't realise how weird it is, but believe me, it is weird. Story is great - it reflects my own childhood era perfectly - but I do wish someone else was reading it.

    2 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 3 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

    Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    545
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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 3 people found this review helpful
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