April 24th, 2007

breaking bad

Black Swan Green

I bought 'Black Swan Green' by David Mitchell on Saturday afternoon and finished it yesterday, which is fast going for me.

It's a story of small goings-on in a Worcestershire village in 1982, told through the eyes of a 13 year old boy not unlike DM's youthful self. That doesn't sound too inviting does it? It bounces along though, it engages you, and it's very well written. It reminded me in a way of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' because the protagonist is innocent and awkward, and we see complex events through his naive eyes (though this lad is sensitive and literate rather than autistic). It's also a little bit like Cider with Rosie.

The story is compassionate and warm, and presents some explicit recommendations for living, which you may or may not agree with. I did agree on the whole, though it made me ask myself some hard questions about how deeply I suppress anything I really believe or feel when I'm at work, rather in the way children do at school.

I've now started The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (kindly leant to me by happytune), which is kind of magical realist set in the late thirties and early forties in Germany. Like Black Swan Green it is told through the eyes of a young child - in this case a girl - who faces traumatic events. So far I have found it much sadder than B-S-G, but a bit more quirky and odd, which adds a bit of distance to the pain and sadness: the narrator is 'Death' (as in Terry Pratchett) which gives you some idea of the approach. The reviews on Amazon are either 5 stars or one. Love or hate it.

I am very early in the book, but I think like Black Swan Green it is about true language, truth telling and courage.