Page turners: Black Swan Green

"Wish I could be thirteen again," the father fatuously remarks in "Black Swan Green," David Mitchell's brilliant new coming-of-age tale. "Then," his son, Jason, thinks darkly, "you've obviously forgotten what it's like." Mitchell, a Man Booker Prize nominee, clearly hasn't forgotten a minute of the humiliation and turmoil of adolescence, and he uses it all to create a genuinely memorable hero.

There are so many books starring teen narrators burdened by painful secrets, it's a wonder that bookstore fiction sections don't smell of Clearasil. Jason has two: he stammers and he writes poetry - and if either gets out, it will make his life in the village of Black Swan Green a pit of such misery that Dante would wince in sympathy.

The story lurches through a year of Jason's life in 1982 England. Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war swirl together with parental fights, graveyard initiations, a Belgian countess, and Gypsies, which Mitchell then distills into a kind of essence of boyhood. And while Jason is hardly an average teen, he's not a freakish prodigy. (Readers will figure out his parents' problems long before he does.) He's a smart kid whose speech impediment makes him "shrivel up like a plastic wrapper in a fire." Sounds like middle school to me. Grade: A

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK