February 16, 2015

Review: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Title: Black Swan Green

Author: David Mitchell

Publisher: Random House

Date of Publication: 2007

Number of Pages: 296


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 emigrĂ© 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.


Do you remember how it's like to be thirteen? You are neither a child nor a grown-up and you constantly try to persuade everyone that you have indeed grown. This is the age when you experience your first love, your first kiss, your first cigarette. You feel that the world is against you and you struggle to be accepted by those around you, especially if you are a boy. But if you happen to be different in some way, or possess a unique trait, you are sure to be bullied.  

This is exactly what our hero, Jason Taylor, has to face during his adventures in a year that proved to be critical for his growing up. And what a year it was! After trying so hard to be accepted by the cool and tough guys at school he ends up being bullied, turning his life at school a living hell. But he breaks through, making his friendship with the not-so-cool kid even stronger and handling the whole situation in a surprisingly mature way. Even when things get really tough, when his parents get a divorce and he has to leave the house of his childhood, his friends, his school, he tries to remain calm and finally realises that this is the road to growing up. 

The structure of this novel is simpler compared to the rest of David Mitchell's other works. It's a book containing 13 chapters and each one is a short story. In one of them we meet a somewhat familiar character, Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, a character first appeared in Cloud Atlas that introduces Jason to french literature and the Cloud Atlas Sextet by Robert Frobisher. 

My favourite parts of this novel were the most emotionally charged ones. The chapter in which Jason feels guilty about the injury of his worst bully is one of them and it's so hard not to feel bad for him, because it is obviously not his fault. How can a thirteen year-old boy react to the consequences of consequences? But the scene that made me cry was the one in which he was sitting in his empty bedroom. The memories he shared with his sister, their games of hide and seek and him thinking of another kid sitting in that very same room in the future makes it really hard not to shed a tear.

So, my advice is...

A coming-of-age journey worth taking! 


  1. This is basically the life of an early teenager that we can all relate at some point in life. But the problems the novel brings such as bullying and the divorce makes it all worst! If I read this I'll cry all along. :P

    1. This is such a touching novel! Oh, don't let me start with David Mitchell..I'm a fangirl!


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