Townhouse Books

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Black Swan Green: David Mitchell

Black Swan Green was a good book, but not my cup of tea. The jacket blurbs compare the novel to Catcher in the Rye and the narrator to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn -- these are not positive recommendations to me. But if you're looking for a coming-of-age novel, this is a great one.

The narrator is Jason Taylor, a 13-year old boy who lives in an affluent new neighborhood outside a British village called Black Swan Green. His main concern in life is fitting in with the other boys at his school. One of the things I think Mitchell does well in this book is show how this primary objective influences every decision Jason makes -- sometimes he deliberately does things that his parents or teachers see as stupid or rash or irresponsible, when in fact it's a logical course of action.

This all takes place in the Thatcher 80s, and one thing that threw me out of the story was the (to me, at least) clumsy addition of historical detail to a timeless plot. It's still very absorbing and intense, though. The narrative style is so strong that you can feel the anxiety the narrator experiences over every decision he makes. He's a stammerer, so he literally chooses every word he speaks carefully. Girls come into the plot only briefly, and are a mystery to Jason and his friends. I can immediately think back to middle school and identify what's going on within the packs of teenage girls he encounters, but the insight into the rules governing the lives of 13-year old boys was pretty interesting.


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  • > but the insight into the rules
    > governing the lives of 13-year
    > old boys was pretty interesting.

    For that reason alone I may pick up this book.

    By Blogger evt1618, at 10:39 AM  

  • I'm asking my staff to read it -- we all spend a measurable amount of time shaking our heads and asking each other variations on the theme of "Why did that middle school boy do that stupid thing?!?"

    By Blogger Anna, at 2:10 PM  

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