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…

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Winter’s Bone

Daniel Woodrell

First Sentence: Ree Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat.

What a great book this is. You can tell from the opener that there’s a hint of Cormac McCarthy here. You can also tell from the opener that it is not your run of the mill writing style. Often poetic and brutal, this is a beautifully written novel. Set in the Ozarks, it tells the story of teenager Ree Dolly whose father has been missing for some time. Left alone to look after her ailing mother and two younger brothers, she sets out to find him when she discovers that they will lose their home if he does not turn up for a court appearance. She is fearful for their future and worries that her brothers will be

Dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean.

Such is life in this desolate place. And so begins a memorable tale of woe and misfortune, one which really makes you feel for the protagonist, a girl who is instantly likable. This is one of those great books, similar to Everything Ravaged Everything Burned in the way that it can picked up and read on pretty much any page, just to savour the gorgeous use of language. A real treat.

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