The dazzling novel from critically-acclaimed David Mitchell.
Shortlisted for the 2006 Costa Novel Award
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2006
January, 1982. Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor - covert stammerer and reluctant poet - anticipates a stultifying year in his backwater English village. But he hasn't reckoned with bullies, simmering family discord, the Falklands War, a threatened gypsy invasion and those mysterious entities known as girls. Charting thirteen months in the black hole between childhood and adolescence, this is a captivating novel, wry, painful and vibrant with the stuff of life.
For his fourth novel, two-time Booker Prize finalist Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, etc.) turns to material most writers plumb in their first: the semiautobiographical, first-person coming-of-age story. And after three books with notably complex narrative structure, far-flung settings, and multiple viewpoints, he has chosen one narrator, 13-year-old Jason Taylor, to tell the story of one year (1982) in one town, Worcestershire's Black Swan Green. Jason starts with the January day he accidentally smashes his late grandfather's irreplaceable Omega Seamaster DeVille watch and ends with Christmas, which, because of intervening events, becomes the last he spends in this sleepy Midlands hamlet. The gorgeously revealed cast includes Jason's brilliant older sister, sarcastic mother, blustering dad and a spectrum of bullies and mates. Jason's nemesis is an intermittent, fluctuating stammer: some days he must avoid words beginning with N; other days, S. Once he is exposed, the bullies taunt him mercilessly; there is no respite for the weak or disabled in Black Swan Green nor, as the realities of Thatcher's grim reign begin to take their toll, in England writ large. How Jason and his family navigate this year of change is the emotional core of this rich novel, but the virtuoso chapter is "The Bridle Path," wherein Jason, alone for one delicious day, searches for a tunnel fabled to have been dug by the Romans in order to rout the Vikings. What he finds along the way captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom.
70s nostalgia of the best variety
For anyone who grew up in the 70s this book has so much resonance. Beautifully crafted novel.
Wasn't sure what I bought but within a few pages was thankful I had. Recommended.
This is without doubt the finest evocation I have ever read of life for a young boy in a small town.
While it fits neatly into the universe Mitchell has created in his other works, it also stands outside it. You will find no magical realism here, no characters centuries old, no future global calamities. The plot unfolds linearly over a period of 13 months.
What you will find is excellent writing and completely believable characters. If you're a fan of Mitchell's other work, you will love this book. If you're not, this is a good place to start.