Black Swan Green
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"Black Swan Green" Summary

By David Mitchell

fiction | 296 pages | Published in NaN

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.Black Swan Green tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s most subtlest and effective achievement to date.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A coming-of-age story set in 1980s England, following a 13-year-old boy navigating family struggles and his own stammer.

Table of Contents


"Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell is a coming-of-age novel set in the fictional Worcestershire village of Black Swan Green in the early 1980s. The story follows the life of Jason Taylor, a thirteen-year-old boy who struggles with a stammer and grapples with the challenges of adolescence. Through Jason's eyes, the novel explores themes of identity, family, and the turbulence of growing up in a small community.

Brief Synopsis

The novel takes place in the eponymous Black Swan Green, a quiet Worcestershire village. Jason Taylor is the central character, and the story unfolds through his eyes. Dealing with a stammer, Jason grapples with the challenges of early adolescence, navigating the complexities of family, friendship, and social dynamics. Against the backdrop of the Falklands War, the novel captures the zeitgeist of the early 1980s, weaving a poignant and nostalgic tale of youth and self-discovery.


The setting of "Black Swan Green" is crucial to the narrative. The novel is primarily situated in the eponymous village of Black Swan Green in Worcestershire, England. The bucolic and insular nature of the village serves as a microcosm for Jason's coming-of-age journey. The social dynamics, the natural surroundings, and the historical context of the early 1980s all shape the experiences of the characters, providing a rich backdrop for the narrative.

Main Characters

Jason TaylorThe protagonist, a thirteen-year-old boy grappling with a stammer and the challenges of adolescence.
JuliaJason's older sister, who becomes increasingly distant as she navigates her own struggles.
Mr. TaylorJason's father, a complex and authoritative figure who has a strained relationship with his son.
Mrs. TaylorJason's mother, who tries to maintain peace in the family while dealing with her own challenges.
Dean MoranJason's classmate and a central figure in Jason's experiences of friendship and social dynamics.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1-3: "Beginnings"

Jason introduces the reader to his world in Black Swan Green, depicting his struggles with his stammer and his complicated family dynamics. He navigates the challenges of school and social interactions, setting the stage for his journey of self-discovery.

Chapter 4-6: "Bridle Path"

The narrative delves into Jason's evolving relationships with his family and peers, particularly his complex interactions with Dean Moran. It also explores the impact of the Falklands War on the village, reflecting broader sociopolitical tensions.

Chapter 7-9: "Souvenirs"

Jason's experiences with friendship and his attempts to navigate the intricacies of adolescence take center stage. His relationships with his family members undergo further exploration, shedding light on the dynamics within the Taylor household.

Chapter 10-12: "Mijbil the Otter"

The narrative delves into Jason's internal struggles and his attempts to find his place in the world. The theme of identity and self-acceptance becomes increasingly pronounced as Jason confronts his fears and insecurities.

Chapter 13-15: "Solarium"

Jason's journey of self-discovery reaches a critical juncture as he grapples with his stammer and the challenges of adolescence. His interactions with his family and peers shape his evolving understanding of himself and the world around him.

Chapter 16-18: "Snooken"

The narrative delves into Jason's burgeoning sense of independence and his growing awareness of the complexities of the adult world. The impact of the Falklands War continues to reverberate through the village, influencing the lives of the characters.

Chapter 19-21: "Levels"

The novel reaches a crescendo as Jason's internal and external struggles come to a head. His relationships, personal growth, and the societal dynamics in Black Swan Green converge, shaping the trajectory of his coming-of-age journey.

Main Events

  1. Jason's ongoing struggle with his stammer and its impact on his self-esteem and interactions with others.
  2. The evolving dynamics within Jason's family, particularly his complex relationship with his father.
  3. Jason's interactions with peers, particularly his friendship with Dean Moran and the challenges of fitting in.
  4. The overarching influence of the Falklands War on the village and its impact on the characters' lives.
  5. Jason's journey of self-discovery and his evolving understanding of identity, acceptance, and independence.

Themes and Insights

Identity and Self-Discovery: The novel delves into the complexities of identity formation during adolescence, capturing the nuances of Jason's quest for self-acceptance and understanding.

Family and Relationships: The dynamics within Jason's family and his interactions with peers offer insights into the intricate tapestry of human relationships, portraying the challenges and rewards of familial and social connections.

Social and Historical Context: The backdrop of the early 1980s, including the Falklands War, provides a lens through which the novel explores broader societal tensions and their impact on the characters' lives.

Adolescent Struggles: Through Jason's experiences, the novel sheds light on the universal challenges of adolescence, including peer dynamics, self-esteem, and the quest for autonomy.

Reader's Takeaway

"Black Swan Green" offers a poignant and nostalgic exploration of adolescence, family dynamics, and the nuances of identity formation. Through Jason's eyes, readers are invited to reflect on their own coming-of-age experiences and the universal struggles of growing up. The novel's evocative storytelling and rich character development make it a compelling read for those interested in introspective, character-driven narratives.


"Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell is a captivating and introspective coming-of-age novel that offers a rich tapestry of characters, themes, and insights. Set against the backdrop of a rural English village and the sociopolitical tensions of the early 1980s, the novel weaves a poignant narrative of adolescence, family, and self-discovery. Through Jason Taylor's experiences, readers are invited to reflect on the universal struggles of growing up, making "Black Swan Green" a compelling and evocative read.

Black Swan Green FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Black Swan Green'?

    The genre of 'Black Swan Green' is coming-of-age fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'Black Swan Green'?

    The author of 'Black Swan Green' is David Mitchell.

  3. What is the setting of 'Black Swan Green'?

    The setting of 'Black Swan Green' is a small English village in the 1980s.

  4. What is the main theme of 'Black Swan Green'?

    The main theme of 'Black Swan Green' revolves around adolescence, identity, and the challenges of growing up.

  5. Is 'Black Swan Green' a part of a series?

    No, 'Black Swan Green' is a standalone novel and not part of a series.