Photo by JohnConnell used under a Creative Commons license.
David Mitchell, Black Swan Green (Sceptre, 2006).
As a thirteen-year-old in Black Swan Green, an undistinguished village in Worcestershire, Jason Taylor is on the cusp of adolescence, a hard and awkward time. He must always worry about his precarious place in the Hobbesian hierarchy of local youth, and his parents’ relationship seems uneasy as well. He has a stammer he tries to hide, and no one knows that he publishes poetry. This novel chronicles a year in his life, 1982-83, a chapter and a month at a time. Mitchell does a wonderful job of capturing Taylor’s voice, and the mood of the place and the time.
Pico Iyer profiles Mitchell. The Complete Review has a host of links to others’ reviews and a review of its own. (I won’t link to all of these reviews again — just head there, or here. And Bookmarks Magazine collects reviews.) Here’s an excerpt (and you can listen to Mitchell read it). Or listen to Mitchell on the Bat Segundo Show. Robert Birnbaum interviewed him at The Daily News. Froog says it’s one of the most effective memoirs of childhood he can recall. Rick Kleffel calls it a very funny tale of a kid growing up in a small town. Fiona Walker says it’s a joy to read. Darrell M. Dodge focuses on Mitchell’s treatment of stuttering. Kimbofo found it atmospheric and evocative. Silver Neurotic liked the way Mitchell tied things together at the end. Blog says it’s funny. Aaron Riccio says it’s the best book of the year. Chris Lamb (Boldtype) says Taylor’s voice never stoops to preciousness. Abigail Nussbaum sees Mitchell responding to critics of his earlier books. Krissa Corbett Cavouras says it’s genre-defying. Porch Dog says Mitchell captures Taylor’s age. Christopher says it’s scattershot. Kristin Dodge says it reads like a bunch of short stories. Guy Salvidge was reminded of his childhood in England. Ben Skinner says it tugs on your heart. Cromwell49 appreciates Mitchell’s words. Google will turn up much more – this only scratches the surface. Alden Mudge interviewed Mitchell. This page explains that the book is set in a fictionalized Hanley Swan. Here is a fan site.