Black Swan Green
By David Mitchell
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812974010, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 27, 2007
From the author of Cloud Atlas, now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
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 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.
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.
David Mitchell is the author of the international bestseller The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, named a best book of the year by Time, The Washington Post, Financial Times, The New Yorker, The Globe and Mail, and The New York Times; Black Swan Green, which was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Time; Cloud Atlas, which was a Man Booker Prize finalist; Number9Dream, which was short-listed for the Man Booker as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and Ghostwritten, awarded the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for best book by a writer under thirty-five and short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. Hailed as “the novelist who’s shown us fiction’s future” by The Washington Post, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. He lives in Ireland.
"Mitchell's rendering of time and place in this new book has a warm and lived-in feel. . . . [W]hat Mitchell has set out to do here – to capture the flux of youth, and to dazzle the reader with everyday, awkward human interaction rather than clever narrative conceits – is risky and rewarding. . . . Mitchell's obvious efforts to please the reader work wonderfully, and the novel is never less than tremendously engaging. . . ."
"Warmly personal, funny and as matter-of-fact and grounded as [Mitchell’s] other books are enigmatic and lofty, Black Swan Green has a strong autobiographical flavour. . . . An easy and enjoyable read, Black Swan Green is at its most compelling when the dialogue is fraught with tension. . . . [I]t offers more in the way of intimacy [than Mitchell’s other work]: It offers a friendship with its precocious and well-meaning young narrator that persists well beyond the last word."
—The Globe and Mail
Praise for David Mitchell:
“David Mitchell entices his readers on to a rollercoaster. . . . Then – at least in my case – they can’t bear the journey to end. . .a complete narrative pleasure that is rare. . . .Powerful and elegant. . . . He isn’t afraid to jerk tears or ratchet up suspense – he understands that’s what we make stories for. . . . He plays delicious games with other people’s voices, ideas and characters.”
—A. S. Byatt, The Guardian (UK)
“Audacious, exhilarating. . . . A formidable creation. . . . [Mitchell’s] brilliance takes one’s breath away in a manner not unlike a first experience of Chartres or the Duomo. It is a pleasure to sit inside such an edifice, and to marvel. Repeat visits are in order. Each time, a little more structure is revealed. Each time, the space grows less intimidating. Until, finally, it is just a book, one that you are reading with amazement and delight.”
—The Globe and Mail
Praise for Cloud Atlas:
“Cloud Atlas is a head rush, both action-packed and chillingly ruminative.”
“Mitchell has the imagination and technique to deliver a fully figured world with its own language, landscape and customs. An astonishing range of textures and voices are combined to make these worlds feel real. . . . An exorbitant artistic effort has yielded an overwhelming literary creation. . . . Mitchell’s storytelling in Cloud Atlas is of the best.”