Black Swan Green – David Mitchell

Black Swan GreenDavid Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was phenomenally successful, in part due to its adoption by Richard and Judy, and sold millions of copies.

Following up such a success must be pretty tough, so Black Swan Green was eagerly anticipated, but also bound to attract slightly more attention than any normal release.

The book is set in a small Worcestershire village in 1982 called Black Swan Green, giving the author plenty of opportunities to crowbar in references of the time.

At the heart of the book is Jason Taylor, a 13-year-old with a stammer who is trying to make sense of the world. The backdrop is the Falklands War, his own family strife and his attempts to fit in with the ‘cool kids’ in the village.

Being only a couple of years different in age to Jason in 1982, this is an incredibly evocative tale and I found myself constantly thinking to myself, “Oh yeah, I remember that”.

Jason’s struggle to fit in was something that I often felt as a kid and something I could identify with and I felt that David Mitchell managed to convey his troubles very well.

Totally different in style from Cloud Atlas, I occasionally felt as if Mitchell was writing it too literally and not allowing the reader to create their own images – something that shouldn’t be too difficult for many people, given the relatively recent time setting.

One thing that the book does accurately portray is how different life was, even though it’s only set 25 years ago. Even Walkmans and video recorders were considered luxuries, so entertainment for kids was very different.

Many novels feature a main character who is effectively an outcast and talk about how difficult their life is and, in that respect, Black Swan Green is no different.

However, Mitchell does make Jason’s concerns incredibly realistic and the result is a poignant, enjoyable and thoroughly readable novel that’s definitely worth checking out.

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