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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Friday, 19 February 2016


I am wondering if there is just one David Mitchell or if the name is a cover for a group of writers with distinctive styles who are not otherwise able to get published? Take "Black Swan Green" for example and compare it with "Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet", or with "Cloud Atlas", or "Boneclocks". Can these really be by the same writer?

Image result for david mitchell black swan greenBSG is a story told in the first person as if by a 13 year old boy, so the first thing to say is that, in my view, no 13 year old is that articulate. But once you as reader come to terms with Jason's ability with words (and Mitchell makes him an embryo 'poet' to make this more plausible) the story and characters are sufficient to carry you through. Essentially this is a book about growing up in the modern world (though it is set in the 80s) where peer popularity is everything, sensitivity is to be avoided at all cost, and bullying is in the natural order of things. However Mitchell can't resist making points along the way about war, gypsies, musical appreciation and stereotyping. Not that these detract from the story because they are woven in very naturally, apart perhaps for the gypsies which seems less authentic. 

I liked the period atmosphere, the Falklands war, Thatcherism, class markers, gender roles and teaching in transition. Not so sure that any school could be quite as bad as the one Jason attends, but then again I wasn't at school in the 80s so am in no position to say. I am guessing that Mitchell was so this may reflect his own experience?

Where will he go next? More strangeness of the "Boneclocks" sort or back to more conventional story-telling? Maybe he will try writing from a female perspective? The man can certainly write and I am looking forward already to his next work.

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