Born in Southport in 1969 but raised in the Worcestershire countryside, English author David Mitchell has traveled the world, living in places such as Sicily, Japan and South Africa before ultimately laying down roots in Ireland where he's lived ever since. Two of his first three novels were shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and his most recent, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, made this year's list. His 2007 novel Black Swan Green is a reflection of his own childhood in rural England, his 13th year specifically, where family turmoil, peer approval and girl trouble are all a part of growing up.
.Thirteen chapters intricately describe thirteen episodes in the protagonist's life in this starkly revealing book which rings achingly true to life. And while each chapter stands on its own, effectively as its own independent creation, it won't take the reader long to perceive the interconnectedness of each event as Mitchell skillfully threads each of the various, often seemingly tangential strands of the story, interweaving bits and pieces from what no doubt his own well-recollected though not so idyllic as one might assume young adulthood. There's a reason this is not a YA book. And it's not just the frequently indecipherable British slang. Nothing is very optimistic or even frivolous about Mitchell's prose as he subjects his protagonist to life's harsher elements, highlighting an overwhelming proportion of adolescence's more discomforting episodes. Even as Jason's a plucky, resilient character with much to preoccupy him outside of the negative sphere, it's still no fun to experience his world of very ordinary, but strikingly lucid pain and sorrow. Historical anecdotes and pop culture references like the Cold War and British invasion of the Falklands are well tied in to things and even subtle hints of the budding computer age creep on to the stage. But even the nostalgia of say 80's music or movies like Superman or Star Wars can't deviate from the author's painfully somber narrative which pulls no punches and most definitely refuses to shy away from life's crueler, more prevalent side which spares no one no matter what age. (FIC MITCHELL)