Friday, November 9, 2012

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

Do not set foot in my office. That's dad's rule. But the phone'd rung twenty-five times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it's a matter of life or death.

I enjoyed this one, by the author Cloud Atlas (review coming soon.) "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." 

I enjoyed the depiction of small town life in this one. Black Swan Green is kind of a book of short stories about Jason Taylor's adventures, though not exactly. You do have to know about the Hangman, which is what Jason calls his stammer. All of the stories were really interesting. Despite its short length, this one is a pretty slow read, because the font was really annoying, and also, there's a lot of British 1980s slang (I'm sure it's changed since then.) All of the characters living in this small town are well portrayed; I think Mitchell did a great job of showing the various types and social hierarchies among the schoolboys too. Also, the slow unraveling of Jason's mother and father's marriage was really good too, shown in every chapter. 

It was interesting, because the book is set during the Falkland War in Argentina, where the British were fighting for control of them. And somehow, they lost to Argentina. At the beginning of the book, everyone is so sure that of course the British will win. But then an inhabitant from the town is killed. It kind of reminded me of Gone With the Wind and the way that the losing side is so sure that they will be the victors. Anyway, I enjoyed this one a lot.

Read Black Swan Green:
  • if you like David Mitchell
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like boy "coming-of-age" stories
  • if you like books set in England
  • if you are interested in the Falkland Wars or British history
294 pages. 
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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