Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Year in the Life

Sometimes what leads me to a book is a straight line, sometimes it's a long twisted path, but this time it was somewhere in between. I loved David Mitchell's “Cloud Atlas', so I tried “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” but I just couldn't get into it. So much for David Mitchell, said I. But then I listened to the podcast of the Slate Audio Book Club where they discussed “Cloud Atlas”. (These podcasts are very entertaining, and I loved the latest one where they discussed “”Pride and Prejudice” on the occasion of its 200th birthday). They enjoyed "Cloud Atlas", but all of them said that their favorite Mitchell book was Black Swan Green, so I decided to try it.

What! Another coming-of-age novel told in the voice of a thirteen-year-old boy? Why I am reading this? But I was hooked immediately. The chapters, each about a month apart, recount episodes in Jason Taylor's life in Worcestershire in 1982 . They don't initially seem to tie together, but they slowly reveal Jason's world and his view of it. He is a sharp observer, perhaps because his stammer makes him wary of talking too much, but also because he is acutely aware of the thin and shifting line that separates a thirteen-year-old from being part of the crowd to being the object of bullying. He has secret aspirations to write poetry, and some of his prose reflects his attachment to the lyric and mystical in nature. But he can also be snarkily funny, keenly observant of the odd characters that are part of small town life, and sharply critical of his parent's crumbling marriage.

If you've been put off by complicated, mannered style of Mitchell's previous works, I highly recommend that you spend a year with Jason Taylor.

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