Still working...


9780812974010Having just posted an exuberant commentary on David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I ran to Black Swan Green with high hopes and expectations. Alas, I was a bit disappointed. Not that there’s much wrong. Mitchell’s way too accomplished for that. But well-written and oft-compelling as the story is, it doesn’t seem to me to add up to much, not compared to the monumental talent Mitchell displayed in Jacob and is displaying in The Bone Clocks, which I am reading right now.


Black Swan is a short, even slight, book tracing a year in the life of 13-year-old Jason in his isolated Yorkshire village. He has normal 13-year-old problems of shaky confidence, encounters with bullies, exacerbated by a stuttering problem. There’s a paranormal incident that comes in the person of an archetypal old lady in a haunted cabin in the woods. Jungians would have a field day with her healing powers and with the stripping of most of the mystery that comes later.  Another bit of potent symbolism is the tale of the destruction of the precious watch his father gave him, broken during an ice skating encounter with a foe that might or might not have actually been there.

A careful reader will find a lot to puzzle over in Black Swan Green, but the question becomes “Is it worth it?” Many reviewers seem to think so. I don’t. It’s a well-above-average coming of age tale, but not the gripping story that it might have/could have been in the hands of this superior author. I might have given this a higher rating were it penned by another writer. Is that fair? Probably not, but it’s my party.


Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts