Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mitchell, David (Black Swan Green)

I was convinced this was Mitchell's first book while reading it, until I went and actually looked that fact up. A self-reflective novel about growing up as a smart stuttering boy in rural England and having more imagination than most others? It seems like an intelligent first book choice to me.

But no, it's actually Mitchell's 3rd book, and I would claim that of the books I have read of his (apparently not the first two), this one dials the fantasy factor way down. It seems to be exactly as I described above - which would make it nothing special if it were in anyone else's hands. But in Mitchell's, you can feel the ice on the pond under your feet, or understand the strange pull of a far distant set of hills, or be utterly confused about what to do when presented with a lost wallet stuffed with pound notes. It's the most evocative storytelling out there. (Heck, I still remember specific, detailed scenes from Cloud Atlas, which is saying a bunch for a book that is over 500 pages long.)

You'll understand far, far more about stuttering (and how it differs from stammering) but don't worry, there's nary a lesson to be found. It is a book told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old boy - not many lessons are going to be gleaned from it. Unless it's that growing up as a boy utterly stinks. (Yes, I've clearly forgotten what it was like to grow up as a girl.)

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