FROM MAY 2006:
It seems to me that there’s not much, if anything about this novel, that rings a false note. Even though Black Swan Green borders on the formulaic, the voice is so spot on that none of that matters. David Mitchell’s coming of age novel touches on all the classic problems of the genre: belonging, being different, first sexual awakenings, the alienation from one’s parents, dealing with the bully, popularity.
And in a ‘year in the life’ (from Chapters titled January Man to January Man), young Jason Taylor makes an incredible journey. (It took me awhile to get past the unfortunate naming of Jason Taylor – I just couldn’t shake the image of an ex-Miami Dolphins linebacker). The growth in this short year is at once monumental and incremental – making it all the more believable. From the change in his relationship with his sister, the coming to terms with his parents divorce, the facing up to the perils of public image vs. self-image, the first grapples with moral choice and guilt….and love – Jason grows up before our eyes in this short novel.
Mitchell’s use of pop music references continues apace, hearkening back to Number Nine Dream. And as Mitchell introduces young Taylor to the music of Robert Forbisher via a now quite elderly Madame Crommelynck, we are transported back to Cloud Atlas. Nice touch. Leaving Jason on the eve of his fourteenth birthday, we do have hope of seeing him again – in some form – in a future Mitchell novel. Takes some of the sting about having to leave so soon.