Read for the 2010 Complete Booker Challenge.
Black Swan Green is a year in the life of Jason Taylor, a thirteen-year-old growing up in a small Worcestershire village in the early 80s.
I really enjoyed this book. It had a very different tone than the other book I’d read by this author (Cloud Atlas), though that’s completely understandable, as this is a story set entirely in the real world, while Cloud Atlas had definite science fiction leanings. (Nevertheless, a character from Cloud Atlas does make an appearance in this book, a crossover I really loved.)
This story isn’t particularly ground-breaking: it’s all about school, bullies, trying to understand girls, first kisses, and watching your world fall apart as your parents careen towards divorce. It’s this normalcy that makes this book great. I’m not British, so a fair bit of the pop culture references probably don’t resonant with me as much as they would for a Brit my age (the Falkland War is pretty much a footnote in history in my American consciousness, but a lot of the musical references rang true), but I was thirteen, and this story nails thirteen with complete accuracy. It made the story a bit of a nostalgia trip, and I read along as much to see what happened next to Jason, as to find out what kinds of memories of my own early teens the story would bring back. I love that kind of book, where it resonates that strongly with real life. I’d say this is a must read for anyone that was once thirteen, and fondly remembers how wonderful, and excruciating, that time was.