©2006 David Mitchell; (P)W.F. Howes Ltd
I first came across David Mitchell when I rented the Audio Book version of his novel “Cloud Atlas” from my local library. By the time this unabridged edition had run its course I was both breathless and astonished. Cloud Atlas is multi-layered and absorbing story that concludes with a subtle yet bold statement on human existence. Of course when I discovered that Audible had Mitchell’s latest novel “Black Swan Green” available, I quickly snatched it up in anticipation more literary fireworks, and I was not disappointed. This story concerns Jason Taylor, a boy on the cusp of adolescence. In this well observed and deeply insightful character study we become privy to Jason’s innermost thoughts through the course of a year as he comes to terms with a world that is rapidly changing around him. We partake in his trails, identify with his naivety, remember our own burgeoning sexuality, take pleasure in his humour and admire his courage as he takes bold, yet considered steps toward a new course of life. This book is a profound reminiscence of a time of life that that is gone in the blink of an eye. Mitchell is a writer with a unique talent, please download this book, it is simply wonderful.
I loved this book on a variety of levels. As a fellow child on the cusp of becoming a teenager in the early 1980s, the references and the way that the narrater felt and spoke filled me with an immense sense of nostalgia. I was excited each time a new memory was sparked - pac man, the music playing, playing red rover... The real strength of the book for me, however, was the powerful use of language, particularly the one-line descriptions of the weather and the landscape. The sky being 'etcher-sketcher grey' will stick in my mind for a long time. This felt like the real experience of a real child, feeling isolated because of a stammer, the need to belong, what it is like to explore and learn about the world of relationships with friends, family, bullies, first loves, and other almost random interactions. This was a beautiful book and I loved it.
I listened to this and loved it. So did my eleven and fourteen-year-old boys, who still talk about it now. One of the most convincing evocations of childhood before parental paranoia and Playstations took all the fear, fun and freedom out of it. Jason's insights are accurate and often hilarious, his observations absurdly poetic and yet right on the mark, and his desciptions of various events - notably his passage through the neighbouring back gardens - some of the most intense and vivid you'll ever encounter. Mitchell reveals himself as a master of character as well as language.
Moreover, it's wonderfully narrated by Chris Nelson, who has just the perfect voice and tone for 'Jace'. 'Black Swan Green' could challenge 'A Little Stranger' as my favourite audiobook of all time, but is definitely top of my list for the sheer brilliance of its narration.
"AN UNEXPECTED PLEASURE"
This was surprisingly different from David Mitchell's recent historical novel. I might not have chosen this book if I'd realised it was a coming of age novel narrated by a teenage boy but it was very well written and read.It deals honestly and perceptively with the world of thirteen year old Jason Taylor , capturing the crippling insecurities and anxieties of his adolescence.It is very insightful on the psychology of bullying and would be a useful book for any parent of teenage children.I would have loved more of his old Belgian mentor,the acerbicly wonderful Ava. Her first appearance brought the book to life suddenly, just when I was beginning to tire of his unremarkable family.There is a deal of humour and the narration is excellent.
All the characters grow and develop in subtle ways in the course of the twelve months which the tale spans.
"Black Swan Green - One of the very best."
This is one of the best books I have ever read/listened to. The characters are really well drawn and dialog is brilliant.
It made me laugh out loud in places. Two highlights were the speech made by the vicar's wife about gypsies and the description of the school disco. If you were 'there' in the 80s (teacher or pupil) you will know what I mean when you read it.
The narrator was fantastic.
A pure delight.
"Adrian Mole in Thatcherland!"
One of the best book-reading experiences I have had in years! Everyone in my book-club found it hilarious and immensely entertaining as well as full of pathos!David Mitchell brilliantly conjures up the spirit of the time with the background of the Falklands War and reader Chris Nelson just's IS that 13-year-old boy, struggling with his dysfunctional family and trying to reconcile puberty with his poetic instincts. What is particularly impressive is the way that the inner world of the protagonist is injected with excitement and even mystery, as well as having never a dull moment. Some people have found some of Mitchell's earlier work a bit heavy-going, but it is difficult to imagine anyone encountering resistances here. Author and reader bring off a real tour de force!
"Wonderful book - slightly irritating narration"
I had read Black Swan Green already and revisiting it in audio form confirmed my memory of it as exceptional. It's rather like a much more complex and earthy Adrian Mole, sharing something of that style of humour as well as the age of the narrator and its 1980s setting. The writing perfectly captures the adolescent balancing act of worries and slurries - and the musing and soaring of a budding individual intellect.
The narration was excellent in many ways but let down for me by the constant mispronunciations. This is not the narrator's fault - someone has been very lazy and should have picked up on it. I'm not talking about words a thirteen year- old wouldn't know; I'm talking about pronouncing 'live' and 'lead' the wrong way in context and putting the wrong pronunciation of a word in the mouth of an adult character who certainly would know better! Very irritating as some attention to detail would've made this nearly perfect
"Summer sunshine reading..."
The story of 1980’s teenager Jason Taylor made light reading for me over the two weeks that we spent on Menorca and whilst it was competent enough my first dip into David Mitchell was not as inspiring as my first dip at Cala’n Turquetta or the Murakami book that I read as the companion. The references back to contemporaneous touch-stones got a bit wearing and was beautifully parodied by Alan Partridge on the telly quite recently. It was OK - but not much more than that. I think it would take a lot of convincing to get me into the ‘teenager coming of age thing’ for sometime and I’d have to a bit of careful research before David Mitchell appears on my reading list on this showing.
"Good book - toe-curlingly bad reading"
Very engaging book - if you're a fan of David Mitchell you'll probably like this one. I'm a 'younger' reader, so some of the Falklands references aren't as resonant to me as they might be to those who remember these events. A compelling coming-of-age-in-boring-nowhere account.
I hate to be so critical, but the reading is awful. Stumbled-over words and hesitations that are left in the final edit, terrible (I mean, really terrible) accents, and stupid voices (female voices in particular are embarrassingly bad) which detract from the book itself. I just couldn't get past how bad the reading was - it really interfered with being able to focus on the story. Well below the quality I've come to expect.
I've read or listened to 4 of DM's books now and they are all wonderful. I think this one is a close second to Jacob de Zoet. The atmosphere - a backdrop of my own childhood times - was really well done and the character was really relatable too. Just writing this review makes me want to go back and listen to it again now... hm...
"Coming of Age in the Eighties"
If you also grew up in the eighties this will be a nostalgic trip. If you didn't you can still enjoy David Mitchell's wonderful characterisation and ability to capture the thoughts and language of a thirteen year old. Great story telling and gripping from start to finish. I wasn't 100% sold on the young reader to begin with - but actually he is excellent.
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