Book Reviews

At this time of year who feels like going out? Far more sensible to curl up in bed with a gripping read, so here are two quirky new novels that will definitely keep you entertained.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Black Swan Green follows a year-and-a-bit in the life of 13 year old Jason Taylor, living in a small Worcestershire village in the early 1980s. Jason has a stammer, and although this is something that he tries to hide, it does impinge on the day-to-day running of his life as he encounters classmates, teachers and those ever out of reach, otherworldly beings: girls.
In contrast to his other, more existentialist novels, Mitchell’s Black Swan Green is altogether more accessible and heart-felt. You get the feeling that Mitchell really cares about the character of Jason through the fact that his story is told through the first person, using the turn of phrase that a 13 year old might employ. Jason’s relationship with Madame Crommelynck is both humorous and touching and the descriptions of Jason’s struggle with his stammer evoke the utmost sympathy in the reader. This novel is a definite page-turner from beginning to end as it draws the reader further and further into the psyche of the protagonist. I have already recommended this book to many of my friends and relatives and now I’m recommending it to you.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

George Hall is new to retirement and new to the modern convention of ‘discussing one’s feelings’. It is because of this dislike of communication that, after finding a sinister-looking lesion on his hip, George subsides into an internal spiral of madness and depression, which is exacerbated by the fact that his family are far too busy with their own problems to notice. Fuelled by the false impression that this lesion is cancerous and by his family’s almost willful ignorance of his state of mind, George feels he is forced to take drastic and bloody action.

Haddon has produced a bittersweet story, which engages the reader with astute observations of a troubled family life. The characters are easy to connect with and the wry undertones of the novel provide the reader with many laughs. The manner in which George attempts to deal with his lesion, however, is told with stomach-churning clarity and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Although it doesn’t quite recreate the originality of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this novel is an enjoyable read and a worthy way to occupy these dark winter nights.

Tara Shanahan

ArtsExploring Arts

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