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Black Swan Green  By  cover art

Black Swan Green

By: David Mitchell
Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne
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Publisher's Summary

By the New York Times best-selling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Selected by Time as One of the Ten Best Books of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post Book World, The Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News, and Kirkus Reviews
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
Winner of the ALA Alex Award
Finalist for the Costa Novel Award 

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.  

Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for 13-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in dying Cold War England, 1982. But the 13 chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissinger-esque realpolitik enacted in boys' games on a frozen lake; of "nightcreeping" through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason's search to replace his dead grandfather's irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher's recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.

Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell's subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

Praise for Black Swan Green

“[David Mitchell has created] one of the most endearing, smart, and funny young narrators ever to rise up from the pages of a novel.... The always fresh and brilliant writing will carry readers back to their own childhoods.... This enchanting novel makes us remember exactly what it was like.” (The Boston Globe)

“[David Mitchell is a] prodigiously daring and imaginative young writer.... As in the works of Thomas Pynchon and Herman Melville, one feels the roof of the narrative lifted off and oneself in thrall.” (Time)

©2006 David Mitchell (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye, and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Gorgeous....Captures the sheer pleasure of being a boy and brings to mind adventures shared by Huck and Tom." ( Publishers Weekly)
"He reproduces Jason's inner life with such astonishing verisimilitude that readers will find themselves haunted by him long after turning the last page." ( Booklist)

What listeners say about Black Swan Green

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Captivating

I absolutly loved this book and this author. I also have recently listen to Cloud Atlas. I love the voice of the character,13 year old Jason Taylor. He is a middle tier cool kid. This book is a funny, sensative and often heartbreaking look at how difficult it is to be a 13 year old boy and navigate your place in the food chain of boys in school, the mysterious draw of girls, world politics and family problems. The narrator is brillant. I couldn't stop listening because of his magical voice. He effortlessly breaths life into all of the characters in the book. I can't wait to read/listen to more by this author and I look to hearing more from this narrator.

I can't say enough good things about this book.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great intro to Mitchell's world: Black Swan Green

Any additional comments?

Five stars to David Mitchell's unrelentingly real portrayal of one boy's 13th year. Jason Taylor is disturbed, eloquent, sweet, bawdy (in a 13 year old kind of way), unintuitive and unable to be anyone but himself. That last part is the trouble: no one accepts a 13-year-old who is true to himself, so he gets beat up on a regular basis. He has a rough time of it--an unrelenting stammer, a highly developed intellect which does not usually work in his favor, and a vicious internal life--he names his alter egos the Unborn Twin, Hangman and Maggot. But his talent for language (I know, ironic) and the picaresque episodes with unexpected allies put him in the driver's seat for the bildungsroman which is 8th grade. He emerges victorious, to take the challenges of 9th grade on--whether he wants to or not.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

You say Tomato

Captures life in 1980's middle England perfectly, disturbingly realistic depictions of small village & comprehensive school drudgery.
A subtle coming of age story with one drawback, the narration.

If the lead character of a novel is a 13 year old boy please audible, pretty please hire an English actor.

The pronunciation of vowel sounds by this narrator are incredibly jarring. Pretty clearly an American doing an English accent and not all that badly EXCEPT for all of his vowel sounds!
Not being English also leads to the narrator woefully mispronouncing place names and butchering regional accents that are scattered throughout the book.

The narrators rhythm and acting skills are really quite good but he shouldn't be reading English characters without some guidance. Easier just to hire a Brit in the future, PLEASE!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Bizarre Pronouciations

Mitchell's pronunciation are so peculiar, it is taking away from the story for me. I have never heard an English accent so strange. It doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. I grew up in the West Country, as did he - and I have never heard anything like it. He says "Aunt" for Ant. He says "Urn Bru for Iron Bru". He says "Don" for Dawn. He says Gehrage for Garage. He says MalVERN instead of MALvern, he says Dotsun for Datsun, He says Aaahlice for Alice and the list goes on and on. Americans probably don't realise how weird it is, but believe me, it is weird. Story is great - it reflects my own childhood era perfectly - but I do wish someone else was reading it.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The joys of teen misery

Top-notch, versatile narration of a lyrical coming-of-age story. Both Mitchell and Heyborne nail the voice of the awkward, angst-ridden boy who struggles with both inner and outer demons--a plague of stuttering, harrassment by village bullies and crazy old ladies, the mysteries of girls, a family that disintegrates even while he finds his strengths. British teenspeak and early 80s pop-music and political references add to the delight.

4 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Couldn't take more of the dreadful English accent

Any additional comments?

Having grown up in Malvern ( pronounced Moll Vern ) I loved Mitchell's reference to places I know and I found the story compelling, but the narrator's English accent was so painful that I couldn't get through this. I hope there's another recording as I'd love to listen.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Everyone should read!

David Mitchell is a writer I enjoy a lot, so I expected to like this. It exceeded my expectations and I not only loved it, I've already purchased it for several other people in my life.

Besides the magnificent writing, the narration is absolutely perfect! I feel like this is a book I would have enjoyed in written or audio form. That said, I'm glad I listened to it because the narrator bought the book to life for me in a way that I'm not sure I would have experienced reading it. I highly recommend it to everyone.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Particularly good narration

Especially in the second half or so of the book, the narrator really shines at doing all the voices, from the odd accent of old Madame Cromerlinck to the Gypsies and the horrid gossipy vicar's wife.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

You gotta stick with it for a bit

At first I thought this book was boring; however, I am not one to give up on anything. The number of characters in the book are numerous and it was really hard to keep track of. In addition, some of the chapters end abruptly and you never really know what happened.

The narrator does a fine job of speaking and I found myself imitating the boy's voice at times.

You really feel for the character when his social life changes and (although not having experienced it myself) you can really empathize with the character.

One chapter of the book I found to be very boring; however, overall it was a good read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • ML
  • 02-16-15

Slow start but then very engrossing

I really liked this book - my first by David Mitchell. The narration was good in parts but the pronunciation of place names and even just ordinary words was off putting. A slight glitch in an otherwise good experience. I'm off to start my next DM book now....

2 people found this helpful