by Julie HaleMarch 2007
Black Swan Green
Mitchell, author of the acclaimed Cloud Atlas (2004), returns with a spare and lovely novel told from the perspective of a teenager. Jason Taylor resides in Black Swan Green, a quiet little village in Worcestershire, with his smart, socially successful sister and quarreling parents. The year is 1982. Margaret Thatcher is in office, the Cold War is winding down, and Duran Duran are all the rage. Thirteen-year-old Jason, as the reader soon learns, has a stammer, a characteristic that gives strange shape to his life, as he edits his own vocabulary in an effort to make speaking easier. On certain days, he avoids words beginning with N, while on others, he shies away from the letter S. Life with a perfect sister only makes his deficiencies more apparent or so it seems to Jason. Mitchell's portrayal of Jason as an eccentric teen who is brilliant in his own right, full of clever insights and ingenious ideas, is a joy to read. As the novel unfolds, a cast of remarkable characters is introduced, including Dawn Madden, the voluptuous object of Jason's affection, and Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, a mysterious immigrant with her own incredible story. This beguiling novel offers plenty of humor and an unforgettable narrator in Jason, whose inner thoughts and emotions are convincingly presented by Mitchell.