what's in a name challenge, colour category; notable books 2007
1982, Black Swan, England. This novel spends a year in Jason Taylor's life as he navigates the uneasy age of thirteen, and if you've forgotten how horrible thirteen year old are, this book will slam it back to you. Thirteen year old girls are awful, I know from living it, and this book exposed that boys are just as bad. Jason, our narrator has many sides, most notably a poet. Eliot Bolivar is his alias as it wouldn't do to have the other lads aware that Jason writes poetry, he'd be a poof. The language and slang of Worcestershire County in the early 1980s takes a bit to understand, but it works, and Mitchell has captured the voice of his narrator perfectly. It helps that I remember being 14 in 1982, and the Falklands War. I imagine all early teenagers get a world event that helps define their life, that time when you begin to see the whole world and your place in it, and how larger events than your house, your community are important.
And it was the poetry of the writing that I loved in this book. The images and phrases captured my attention. Jason has a way of describing things perfectly, by a simile or even their sound.
A classic LP was playing. Nothing like the rumpty-tump-tump stuff Mr Kempsey plays in Music. Jealous and sweet, this music was, sobbing and gorgeous, muddy and crystal. But if the right words existed the music wouldn't need to.
Themes of secrets run through this, but it isn't obvious how much until the end. The lesson by their teacher about secrets was my favorite passage in the book. Oh, to be able to teach a lesson so well! Secret clubs, phone calls, speech impediments, parents, all powerful secrets. And then there were the bullies. Trying to fit in and wanting the approval of the popular boys makes those kids the prey of bullies. So this is also about courage, and doing the right thing. A lot of stuff happens in this novel, too much to mention, but it will be swilling around in my head for a while.
The writing, and the characters, and the poetry make this an excellent book. A bildungromans. (I had to look that up one day) This made the long list for the Man Booker in 2006, but not the shortlist?