Starting Over

Friday, August 04, 2006

Black Swan Green

David Mitchell is one of the most exciting new English language novelists around at the moment. His previous works Ghostwritten, number9dream, and the very successful and popular Cloud Atlas were all thoughful and experimental and great reads.
Black Swan Green is a story told by a 13 year old boy, of a year in his life in which the Falklans war takes place, his sister leaves home, his parents break up and he deals with a stammer and being bullied. It represents a shift of sorts, being a more focussed single narrative than Mitchell's previous works. Yet, like his previous novels this work moves subtley between episodic genres and isn't afraid to leave questions unanswered and withhold the full story. So while at first glance a more conventional work, the voice of an adolescent would-be poet is no less intriguing than the shifting narrators of Mitchell's previous works.
If portraying a middle-class family in an English town in the 1980's is in some ways autobiographical then this is a damning portrait of a year in the life of the artist as a young man. Mitchell isn't afraid to condemn small-mindedness, pettiness and insularity. But this isn't an angry work, but a tender and careful one. In some ways perhaps a transitional work it raises a very big question of what next for this acclaimed novelist. Having stepped back into his childhood where will the voyage move on to?


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