Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: "Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell

Just for his versatility alone, David Mitchell is easily one of the best writers working today. You can see every the effort he puts into his original and breathtaking stories in almost every sentence. For a writer who can give us something as historically rich as The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, as wondrously humane as Number9dream and something as mind bending and enlightening as The Bone Clocks, and to do so with such narrative skill and non-ironic love for storytelling, it is no easy feat. Even his worst book (for me, that is his first novel Ghostwritten) have a playfulness that is challenging and inviting, and with this novel, Black Swan Green, his most earthy, and accessible novel, is no different, taking the classic youthful bildungsroman and turning on its head the way only Mitchell can. It focuses on Jason Taylor, a thirteen year old who, like Mitchell himself, is afflicted with a severe stammer. He sees the world through a youthful lens, where the wide-eyed wonder of adolescent is slowly being crushed by the onslaught of the real world and real problems. A family spat at the beginning of the story, where Jason is chastised for answering the incessantly ringing phone in his father’s office leads directly into a scene set in nearby woods where Jason meets what might or might not be a witch. The relationship with his friends and his need to fit in coincides with the Falklands War, which claims the life of one of his friends older brothers, his love of poetry, which he keeps a secret, is perpetuated by two seemingly nefarious characters, one being his anti-social and methodical cousin and an aging woman who berates his literary tastes. While not as earth shattering as The Bone Clocks, this is a hearty story of youth and growing up by a writer both comfortable and in love with what he is doing.

Rating: 4/5

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