Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green

I’m very glad I finished this book, but, man, was it hard to get started. I bought this book earlier this summer because of a recommendation from one of my favorite sites. I think I read about 3 pages and gave up on it. I consider myself quite the anglophile, and am mostly hip to the British slang these days, but British slang from the early ’80s? Not so much. Ace doss, indeed. (After reading the whole book, I think that translates to “cool shit” or something like that. Ace definitely means cool, but doss is used in a few different ways, so I’m not sure about it.) Some other snippets that threw me in the first three pages:

“Moron, grinny-zitty as ever. His bumfluff’s getting thicker, mind.”

“Moron’s my height and he’s okay but Jesus he pongs of gravy.”

Pongs of gravy? I still don’t know what the hell that means.

  1. Anyway, I came back to the book last month because I don’t like starting books and not finishing them. It still took me forever to get through. It’s fairly short at about 300 pages, which I can usually get through in a week or so (I try to read for at least 30 minutes every night before bed). I think this book took me about 3 weeks. Besides the slang and bad grammar of the 13 year old main character (couldn’t’ve, etc.), the writing is just very dense. The denser the writing, the slower I read. Plus it has long chapters and for some reason books with longer chapters take me a longer time to read. I don’t really know why. It bothers me though, because I like to stop reading at the end of the chapter and some nights I could only get through the half the chapter. My OCD really has issues with that kind of stuff.
  2. Once I made it over the hump of those first three pages, the first chapter is really quite interesting and well written. It sets up pretty much everything that is going to happen in the book. But then it kind of goes into the realm of the supernatural talking about ghosts and witches (not really but kinda) and that threw me, like, what kind of book is this? And it ends on this cliffhanger and I wanted to know what happened and the second chapter has absolutely nothing to do with it and you don’t really learn what happened until the last chapter.
  3. But I’m dumb. Because I didn’t figure out the structure of the book is that each chapter is about an incident from each month of the main character’s 13th year until I was about halfway through. So most chapters end on some kind of cliffhanger and sometimes what happens gets addressed in the later chapters and sometimes you just have to read between the lines.
  4. I’ve mainly been reading chick-lit, dick-lit or “kids” books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials this year, so I’m not used to actually having to do extra work to understand the story, so I think that’s why this one took me a long time. But it was definitely worth the effort. The last four or five chapters were much easier and faster, so I don’t know if I had just gotten used to the British-ness of it all or I cared about the character more or what.
  5. Anyway, it was a sweet and fun (And funny, though I think it would have been funnier if I hadn’t been a year old when the story took place. Early ’80’s references are a bit beyond me. ) story of a boy coming of age. The trials and tribulations of his pursuit of popularity were quite realistic. (It was hard to keep track of all the popular kids. There seemed to be A LOT of bullies. I think 13 year old boys are just assholes in general, though.) So was the disintegration of his parents marriage (not a spoiler, it’s on the back of the book). Especially for the book being from the Jason’s point of view (and being mostly ignorant of the intricacies of his parent’s marriage and marriage in general), and snippets of their conversations being really the only clue to their troubles. It was really well done. I especially loved the chapter comparing the Falklands war with his parents war of the backyard water feature.
  6. The last chapter was quite nice and summed things up just as well as the first chapter set them up. I really liked the last exchange between Jason and his sister:

    “It’ll be alright.” Julia’s gentleness makes it worse. “In the end, Jace.”
    “It doesn’t feel very all right.”
    “That’s because it’s not the end.”



Comments

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  1. neoauteur says:

    A very short but complete review of the book! I may even try it.

  2. Crafty Green Poet says:

    I totally loved Cloud Atlas and am now looking for all his other books, so I look forward to this one, thanks for the review!

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