That's my boy!
Here is the longlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Black Swan Green seemed to be met with a cooler reception by British critics than American critics (small sample size, I know) and yet it is now the front runner for the Booker.
Critics who reacted negatively towards Black Swan Green seem to view it as a step back for Mitchell. While it is certainly not as daring as either Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten in terms of toying with notions of time, setting, reincarnation, etc., or experimenting with interlinked stories featuring disparate narrative voices, it is far from a standard coming-of-age novel. In Black Swan Green we find Mitchell focusing on a very particular moment in time (Cold War England of 1982) a very particular place (Black Swan Green) and a very particular person (Jason Taylor). While not as grandiose as his past efforts, I hardly see this more microscopic focus as a step backwards. Rather, I think one could argue that in abandoning some of his tricks and telling a far more measured tale we see Mitchell maturing and bringing his writing to an even higher level.
One thing I am a little bummed about upon seeing the cover of the Black Swan Green U.K. edition for the first time is the fact that all of Mitchell's novels feature more interesting covers on the U.K. editions. See for yourselves:
U.K. Black Swan Green
U.S. Black Swan Green
U.K. Cloud Atlas
U.S. Cloud Atlas
Now, obviously the cover art is a rather inconsequential matter, but it's interesting to note that Black Swan Green is the first of Mitchell's novels that has not seen the inside of the U.S. version differ significantly from that of the U.K. version. In his first three novels the British terms (boot, lift, chips etc.) and phrases (lord only knows) were edited out and replaced by more commonly American-speak. But with Black Swan Green, as with many coming-of-age tales, the slang and local peculiarities of the town are an essential component to the story, so the words remained unchanged.