Black Swan Green

David Mitchell

First Sentence: Do not set foot in my office.

Another great book from David Mitchell here, this one an almost straight forward Bildungsroman about Jason Taylor, 13-year-old school boy and chronic stammerer. Jason lives in Worcestershire with his mom and dad and Julia, his older sister. In Black Swan Green we are given thirteen chapters, each one representing a month in the year (there are two Januarys), and each one a standalone short story, much like the separate stories in Cloud Atlas. Yet again though when these stories combine they make for a thrilling and unforgettable whole. The writing, needless to say, is out of this world with page after page of glorious prose. We follow Jason through each month and watch him grow before our eyes as he deals with things as diverse as: going to see a speech therapist, being bullied, breaking his grandfather’s Omega Seamaster watch, trying to get his head around girls and watching his parents separate while Julia goes off to college. Every single chapter in this book is a gem, and like all David Mitchell novels it is a must read. Pick it up, read a random page, and it’ll probably be enough to convince you…

* * * * *

Last Sentence: “That’s because it’s not the end.”

Last Sentence explained: A very appropriate final sentence for a David Mitchell book this as like all his work it feels like it could be read over and over again. In this instance it is Julia speaking to Jason. Their parents have separated and they are moving house, away from Black Swan Green. Obviously Jason is feeling pretty bad about all this and Julia tries to reassure him by saying it will be alright in the end, to which Jason replies  “It doesn’t feel very alright.”…

Unsurprisingly, this book is bursting with memorable quotes. Here’s a few of my favourites:

Random quotes from the book:

“Who decides which defects are funny and which ones are tragic? Nobody laughs at blind people or makes iron lung jokes.”

“Run across a field of daisies at warp speed but keep your eyes on the ground. It’s ace. Petalled stars and dandelion comets streak the green universe.”

“Something silent smashed without being dropped.”

“…came swaying out of the Black Swan singing about a cat who crept into a crypt crapped and crept out again.”

“If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin and say, ‘When you’re ready.'”

“…she’s an unnumbered dot-to-dot.”

“I’ve never listened to music lying down. Listening’s reading if you close your eyes.”

“A fresh bomb of laughter blew me into tiny bits.”

“A brick of loneliness is reaching terminal velocity inside me.”

“Grimy windows rectangled misty gloom. The exact colour of boredom.”

“Laughter acker-ack-acked after me, like machine guns.”

“Watching TV on your bed shouldn’t be odd, but it somehow is. Like eating oxtail soup in the bath.”

“…some way-too-early fireworks streaked spoon silver against the Etch-a-Sketch grey sky.”

“Neil Young sings like a barn collapsing but his music’s brill.”

“The well elastics words down, then catapults echoes up.”

“Ghosts of Might Be run riot in woods, and stationery shops and messes of stars.”

” ‘Fire’s the sun, unwindin’ itself out o’ the wood.’ ”

“The world never stops unmaking what the world never stops making.”


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