Black Swan Green
Black Swan Green tells a bit of the story of Jason Taylor, a 13 year old boy growing up in a small English town. It covers the life Jason leads at home, at school and the roads and fields in between.
Who would have thought the life of a 13 year old boy could be so entertaining? I certainly did not. It is amazing how David Mitchell is able to pull the reader into Jason’s life and have them rooting for such a great kid.
Much of the brilliance of this book is in allowing the reader to understand just how damaging teasing and bullying can be. I left school behind years ago and only now realize what some kids had to put up with. Jason has a stammer which he has found creative ways to cover, but which still reveals itself enough for the school kids to discover. At one point Jason finds himself in the lowest order of kids, and I found myself feeling bad for any thoughts of teasing I might have had in school.
Another interesting aspect of the book for an American like me is reading the English slang (which I assume is dated now as the story takes place in 1982) and the events the English were dealing with at the time (Falkland Islands). Sometimes it is difficult to realize just how narrow a view we take until someone introduces us to a different point of view.
I have one complaint about the book, but I am unsure whether it is valid. The school teachers and students seemed ridiculously and unrealistically harsh. Teachers in the book verbally criticize the students which I never saw at all while in school. Maybe it’s a difference in countries or maybe I just grew up going to schools that were strangely tame. It was somewhat distracting for me however, as it wasn’t completely believable.
But aside from that, Black Swan Green was tremendously entertaining and had me completely engrossed. I was a bit sad to see it end really and I look forward to David Mitchell’s next book, whatever that might be. I think he has become one of my favorite authors after this and Cloud Atlas. Time to go back and read his earlier novels, I think.