web site hit counter If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

Availability: Ready to download

Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a single day. In delicate, intricately observed closeup, we witness the hopes, fears, and unspoken despairs of a diverse community: the man with painfully scarred hands who tried in vain to save his wife from a burning house and who must now care for his young daughter alone; a group of young clubgoers just home from an all-night rave, sweetly high and mulling over vague dreams; the nervous young man at number 18 who collects weird urban junk and is haunted by the specter of unrequited love. The tranquillity of the street is shattered at day's end when a terrible accident occurs. This tragedy and an utterly surprising twist provide the momentum for the book. But it is the author's exquisite rendering of the ordinary, the everyday, that gives this novel its freshness, its sense of beauty, wonder, and hope. Rarely does a writer appear with so much music and poetry -- so much vision -- that he can make the world seem new.


Compare

Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a single day. In delicate, intricately observed closeup, we witness the hopes, fears, and unspoken despairs of a diverse community: the man with painfully scarred hands who tried in vain to save his wife from a burning house and who must now care for his young daughter alone; a group of young clubgoers just home from an all-night rave, sweetly high and mulling over vague dreams; the nervous young man at number 18 who collects weird urban junk and is haunted by the specter of unrequited love. The tranquillity of the street is shattered at day's end when a terrible accident occurs. This tragedy and an utterly surprising twist provide the momentum for the book. But it is the author's exquisite rendering of the ordinary, the everyday, that gives this novel its freshness, its sense of beauty, wonder, and hope. Rarely does a writer appear with so much music and poetry -- so much vision -- that he can make the world seem new.

30 review for If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    “He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” (239) A man with scarred hands stands transfixed in reverie staring at his oblivious daughter and wonders how she will ever discern the remarkable from the ordinary if the key to the beyond continues to be stubbornly hidden behind the obtuse quiescence of daily domesticity. I reflect upon the invisible miracles that must have slipped through my fingers or been missed by my unobservant glance under the false prete “He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” (239) A man with scarred hands stands transfixed in reverie staring at his oblivious daughter and wonders how she will ever discern the remarkable from the ordinary if the key to the beyond continues to be stubbornly hidden behind the obtuse quiescence of daily domesticity. I reflect upon the invisible miracles that must have slipped through my fingers or been missed by my unobservant glance under the false pretence of narcotized routine and marvel at Mcgregor’s prowess in bringing this subject matter to attention with perplexing intonation and mould breaking narrative. A chain of quotidian scenes are framed in frozen stillness, Polaroid-like, assembling tiny details of anonymous and seemingly disconnected lives to create the disparate mosaic of any given neighbourhood in a city of Northern England. Twins playing cricket on the street, a little girl chasing angels, college students moving out and facing uncertain futures, an elderly couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary, young and not so young lovers giving free reign to passion on a humid evening, an introvert boy who collects all sort of useless objects, a father whose blotched hands can’t feel the texture of his daughter’s hair. Lives rekindled, burnt and extinguished in absolute otherness, glittering with the vertigo of banality and transcendence, ignored by the indifferent eye deeply anchored to self-absortion. Some years later, a woman who was part of the unpremeditated symphony of everyday coexistence in the aforesaid community summons her memories of that fateful evening while facing major disruption in her current life. Alternate chapters interlace past and present and knit a thorough map of inconsequential details that could have changed the course of other people’s paths in giving shape to unuttered secrets and yearnings, stillborn promises and unspoken fears that locked opportunity in the trap of perfidious forlonness. The misshapen pieces are delivered at a steady pace escalating in suspicion and trepidation, combining mellifluous prose magnified by the peculiar tonality of Mcgregor’s choice of words that slowly gathers momentum in a progressively frenzied cadence until the puzzle becomes whole in a culminating explosion of mystical significance. And the remarkable things that are never spoken out loud: the tragedies of daily life, the latent loneliness, the inexorable foreboding, what is never said and others don’t see... cristalyze into a mirror in which the reader can contemplate himself. And every minutiae shines under Mcgregor’s omniscient magic wand instrumenting a succession of recurrent themes, pattern of symbols and repeated sentences that evoke a mollifying chant and bemuse in almost supernatural revelation. And ineffectual prose emerges as the self-defining mediatrix between reality and the inexplicable mysteries of bare existence. What for some might appear a far-fetched closure for a highly unconventional novel was for me a hair-raising tribute to the magic illusion that remains hidden underneath the mask of daily ordinariness. One only needs to stand still in the middle of any street after a virulent summer storm and listen to the muggy silence, the tentative twittering of birds, find the remarkable things in-between and believe. “He says, there are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    I rated this book 4 stars in order to overcome I believe a bias lurking in my subconscious. 😐 After about 30 pages or so I wrote this in my notes: I remember this — she has cancer I do believe. I think somebody falls from a window. I think I read this book before. It was published in 2002. I have no record of having read it, but I really think I read it before. So I was pissed off at myself after this point, because “I have to read this all over again because I can’t remember how it turned out. G I rated this book 4 stars in order to overcome I believe a bias lurking in my subconscious. 😐 After about 30 pages or so I wrote this in my notes: I remember this — she has cancer I do believe. I think somebody falls from a window. I think I read this book before. It was published in 2002. I have no record of having read it, but I really think I read it before. So I was pissed off at myself after this point, because “I have to read this all over again because I can’t remember how it turned out. Grrrr. What a waste of my time.” Such were my thoughts. So while reading parts of this book I was annoyed at the author for making me re-read his novel. 😮 Well that’s not really fair to the author. Just because my memory is a sieve, I should not blame the book. So rather than give 3 stars, which I was going to give (in my rating system 3 stars is a positive review), I’m upping to 4 stars. In addition, I may also have a positive bias because I was enthralled this fall when I read his “Reservoir 13” and “The Reservoir Tapes”. I don’t think this novel is as good as those books (that are related to each other), but still I think this is an impressive effort by the author. There are three story lines in the novel as far as I can discern: 1. A group of people in an apartment complex are supposed to witness an event which will be seared into their memories. It may not have altered the psyche of the UK or the city in which this novel takes place, but it is momentous. After all, as one of the apartment dwellers, a man with horribly burned hands, tells his daughter, “…if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” 2. The event is one thing, and a second story line is what is going on in the ordinary prosaic lives of the dwellers of the apartment complex (numbered from flat number 11 to 22 I do believe). They may not be remarkable things but still we get to peek in on their lives. More often than not, people do not have names in this novel — rather they are referred to by the number flat they live at (e.g., “In the back room of number seventeen”…”The woman at number 19”). 3. There is the story of an unnamed women in her early 20s and her mother and father, and the young man who dwelt in flat number 18, Michael, and his brother. That is probably the main part of the novel. So, the way McGregor has structured the novel is interesting and I think rather unique. Certainly his prose is. I felt an unease while reading this (i.e., the event binding these people together is not going to be happy)…I kept on thinking protagonist X or Y or Z was going to be the unfortunate person who experienced the event at the end of the book. Anyhoo, I won’t say whether the event indeed was unfortunate or not as that would be a spoiler, now wouldn’t it? 🙃 In closing, one of the things that really make me negatively disposed towards a novel is whether I, while reading, am suddenly roused from the character’s lives that I am reading about and realize that I am reading made-up stuff from the author. But isn’t that what a novel is? Yes, but the wonder of novels is that, if we allow it, we can enter other alternative worlds while reading. That is, I come to believe what I am reading is real. This novel did the trick — I believed in all the characters. And that is good. Oh yes, and I was close to tears twice while reading the novel. Notes: • In 2003, McGregor won both the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award. • This was on the 2002 Booker prize longlist. Reviews: • https://www.theguardian.com/books/200... • https://bookpage.com/reviews/3247-jon... • https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en... • For a blogsite: https://triumphofthenow.com/2013/10/2...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    If you start into this book looking for a conventional, plot-driven story, you might be disappointed. This is more like a motion picture put in words, exquisitely recording one summer day in the life of one unremarkable neighborhood in Northern England. As you watch the various residents going through their day from earliest morning until late afternoon, you also get to peek inside their hearts and minds and histories. Most of the characters are never named, but as the author gradually unveils t If you start into this book looking for a conventional, plot-driven story, you might be disappointed. This is more like a motion picture put in words, exquisitely recording one summer day in the life of one unremarkable neighborhood in Northern England. As you watch the various residents going through their day from earliest morning until late afternoon, you also get to peek inside their hearts and minds and histories. Most of the characters are never named, but as the author gradually unveils them on this ordinary day, they become real and vivid and sometimes heartbreakingly lovable. I was especially touched by the tenderness of the old couple who had married just before the husband went off to war. I confess, I was blubbering when he came back from the war and his wife said, "There's no need to shout. I'm standing right behind you." This book is event driven rather than plot driven. The one day described here is a day that leads up to an event that all of the characters will witness. The book-long buildup to the event does get exasperating at times, so impatient readers beware. Alternating with the day's progression is a second component of the narrative. One of the witnesses to "the event" describes her life three years after that day. Uncomfortable circumstances in her present life have caused her to reflect on what she witnessed and how it has affected her life since then. Given the amazing buildup, the book's conclusion is somewhat wimpy and also sort of freaky. So don't hold your breath for a "shocking" ending. Read it for the intimacy with the characters and for the author's extraordinary powers of description.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    arrgh. What a nice little book this was. So many beautiful little phrases and a great sense of isolation and the better feelings of lonely. Everything was going for this book. Who cares if there is a lack of character names, the characters were nicely flushed out the people in our everyday lives are who we know but don't really know. Everything was going right for it and then it fucking Bel Canto-ed me. I didn't even see it coming, right out of left field I was Patchetted, and the I wanted to la arrgh. What a nice little book this was. So many beautiful little phrases and a great sense of isolation and the better feelings of lonely. Everything was going for this book. Who cares if there is a lack of character names, the characters were nicely flushed out the people in our everyday lives are who we know but don't really know. Everything was going right for it and then it fucking Bel Canto-ed me. I didn't even see it coming, right out of left field I was Patchetted, and the I wanted to lay down on the cigarette littered ground of Woodside Memorial Park and beat my fists and cry till one of the old men chatting would across the way would come over and tell me it's ok, there will be other books, and sometimes the authors make poor decisions at the end, but you can still remember the two hundred and something good pages that came before. Instead though I pulled myself together, and decided to keep my composure and tried to figure a way to continue drudging through this life where great books can fall apart with only a page or so left.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Issicratea

    I read this novel as a follow-up to Jon McGregor’s superb Reservoir 13, which was my standout contemporary read of 2017. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (henceforth INSoRT) was McGregor’s first novel, published in 2002, when he was twenty-six years old and a complete unknown. It put him straight on the literary map when it was longlisted for the Booker Prize, as an out-of-left-field choice. I didn’t read INSoRT at the time, and I’m not too sure I would have liked it if I did, although it’s I read this novel as a follow-up to Jon McGregor’s superb Reservoir 13, which was my standout contemporary read of 2017. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (henceforth INSoRT) was McGregor’s first novel, published in 2002, when he was twenty-six years old and a complete unknown. It put him straight on the literary map when it was longlisted for the Booker Prize, as an out-of-left-field choice. I didn’t read INSoRT at the time, and I’m not too sure I would have liked it if I did, although it’s impressive as a debut novel. There’s a certain studenty earnestness about it, and a degree of overelaboration and straining for effect. The themes are self-consciously weighty (birth, death, the human condition), in such a way that they often crush the relatively thinly imagined human figures who serve as vehicles for them. There is some beautiful writing locally (a character’s extended, tender, observant reminiscence of his grandfather’s death stood out for me), but it didn’t really engage me overall. Considered per se, then, this was a relative failure for me, but what made it a fascinating experience was that I was reading it with Reservoir 13 in mind as a constant point of comparison. The two novels have marked similarities. Both are choral in character and focused on place. They attempt to portray individuals, but also entire communities, and individuals as parts of communities: one of the great themes of nineteenth-century fiction (think Middlemarch), but often left to soap operas in our own, more atomistic age. Reservoir 13 takes as its setting and subject-matter a small Peak District village visited by tragedy. INSoRT has a smaller canvas: a somewhat run-down street in a Northern town. Both novels weave together a large number of narrative threads, each centered on a character or group of characters, in the style of a medieval romance or a modern soap opera. The difference in Reservoir 13 is that the texture of the interweaving is much denser; each narrative is given only a few sentences, in the middle of long, chapter-length, unbroken macro-paragraphs. Another difference is that, in Reservoir 13, MacGregor—rather magically—broadens his purview beyond humans to the animal, bird, plant, and insect life that surrounds them, often unnoticed, and the cycles of the weather and the seasons. A further, very notable difference between the two novels is that, by the time of Reservoir 13, Macgregor has learned the art of concealing his art. INSoRT signals its epiphanies and narrative twists in what can sometimes be a gauchely portentous way. Reservoir 13, by contrast, almost throws these moments away in the flow of its prose, so that you are sometimes stopped in your tracks, trying to take in and process what you have just read. For anyone with an interest in the mechanics of fiction, reading these two novels together is an inspiring lesson in how a talented young writer can become a great middle-aged one, by keeping to the same essential formula, but refining and disciplining his art.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    A strangely apposite time to read this book. Of the two main threads in the novel, one takes place on the last day of summer in 1997 which is the day Princess Diana died. In recent days in the UK, that has been in the media a lot as it was twenty years ago and various remembrances have taken place. Whatever your views of Princess Diana, this means that most people reading this book will have a recollection of things that happened to them on that day. I remember learning about the accident becaus A strangely apposite time to read this book. Of the two main threads in the novel, one takes place on the last day of summer in 1997 which is the day Princess Diana died. In recent days in the UK, that has been in the media a lot as it was twenty years ago and various remembrances have taken place. Whatever your views of Princess Diana, this means that most people reading this book will have a recollection of things that happened to them on that day. I remember learning about the accident because it was a weekend and we used to let our children go downstairs to watch TV in the mornings so we could lie in (I know what you are all thinking!). When one of them came upstairs to tell us they couldn’t find their programmes, I went down to see and every channel was showing coverage of the same event. McGregor has said that this novel began partly as a book about the reaction to the death of Diana. In some ways, it is similar to his Booker 2017 listed novel Reservoir 13 in that it shows life going on despite the "remarkable things" happening around the people. To be clear, the book does not talk about the death of Diana - that is not one of the "remarkable things". The writing is very poetic. You can get a feel for the style from the very first words: If you listen, you can hear it. The city, it sings. If you stand quietly, at the foot of a garden, in the middle of a street, on the roof of a house. It’s clearest at night, when the sound cuts more sharply across the surface of things, when the song reaches out to a place inside you. It is a wordless song, for the most, but it’s a song all the same, and nobody hearing it could doubt what it sings. And the song sings the loudest when you pick out each note. And that’s what McGregor then sets out to do: pick out each note. An omniscient narrator pans up and down the street visiting the people in the houses and exploring their actions, thoughts and feelings. It is clear McGregor wants us to hear every note and he captures a lot of details for us to make us aware of what is happening. We learn early on that something dramatic happens. This makes this novel very different to Reservoir 13. In Reservoir 13, something dramatic has happened to start the book but it is never resolved. In this novel, we are aware that something dramatic is going to end the book and we work our way towards it. There’s a second thread to the story, set some years later, one of the residents of the street receives her own unsettling news and, as she works to come to terms with that, she has cause to look back to that day. The two storylines develop in alternating sections which, I think, works well. The majority of the book doesn’t feel like a book. It’s like a camera panning up and down the street, zooming into houses to pick out a detail, zooming back out to move to another house, going back to houses to see what has developed since we were last there. It is very visual. None of the characters is named (well, one is right at the end) and that can make it tricky to latch on to some of them as you have to remember which number they live at or what their particular physical appearance is that separates them from all the other residents. But you do quickly get into the swing of that. I enjoyed a lot of the language, even the funny speech with no quotation marks and a lot of incomplete sentences (trying to mirror the way we do actually talk a lot of the time: we don’t always finish sentences, we change our minds halfway through, we say things like i just and then stop because we aren’t sure how to say the next bit). But it did feel a bit over-the-top at times, like everything was turned up to 11 all the way through. I don’t want to post spoilers, but I’m really not sure what I think about the ending. It was one of those "Hang on. All the way through you’ve been telling us x - but hinting that x might not be the full story - and now you say it’s actually y" moments. It definitely fits the “remarkable” label and it comes out of nowhere. But I’m not sure I liked it. Some beautiful prose-poetry. Some interesting observations about life in an northern-English town. A debut novel that shows that McGregor is going to develop into a talented writer. And Reservoir 13 demonstrates that he has, indeed, developed. For me, Reservoir 13 is far more worthy of its place on the Man Booker Longlist that this novel is, even though this is far from a bad book. It’s just not a great book. It's just my opinion!

  7. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    The magnificence of the mundane. He says do you think there's too much of it? I say I don't know, I mean some of it, some of it seems a bit, you know, less important. He says he was talking about that a lot, before he went away, about there being too much, that's what all these things are about, his projects, he was trying to absorb some of it. I say too much of what, he says too much of everything, too much stuff, too much information, too many people, too much of things for there to be too much of The magnificence of the mundane. He says do you think there's too much of it? I say I don't know, I mean some of it, some of it seems a bit, you know, less important. He says he was talking about that a lot, before he went away, about there being too much, that's what all these things are about, his projects, he was trying to absorb some of it. I say too much of what, he says too much of everything, too much stuff, too much information, too many people, too much of things for there to be too much of, there is too much to know and I don't know where to begin but I want to try. Where to begin. That silent stillness between the end of night and the break of the new day. A fateful moment at the end of the day, where time stands still, locked in horror, and one unlikely movement can cross the divide. And before that moment there is an ordinary day. A day when people of a street in a Northern town of England come home from a night out, go to bed, get up, make tea, hang out washing, quarrel, make love, make tea, celebrate a wedding anniversary, make tea, wash the car, play cricket, go shopping, make tea. How tedious? Too much information, and some of it seems a bit, you know, less important? Strangely, no. Strangely mesmeric, absorbing. In fact I sat out in the sun and read it straight through, caught up in the poetry, drawn in by the poignancy of the man who could never explain to his wife why he can't join her digging the allotment, nor tell her the reason for those doctor's appointments, the gentle regret at the young girl who realizes that the relationship she's in will go nowhere, they haven't spoken about it, they haven't said what will we do when we leave here, do you want to come with me, let's work something out, and she knows that this means they will quickly and easily drift apart, into other people's lives, into other people's arms in rooms like this. She's neither surprised, nor particularly regretful, she feels only a kind of anticipatory nostalgia. And the gasp when a few pages later the young man that she is preparing to let go closes his eyes in sweet anticipation of the weeks and months, maybe years to come: They haven't made their plans yet, they're not sure what they'll be doing or where they'll be, but he knows they'll be spending their nights enclosed together like this, he knows he can take that much for granted. The fact that they haven't even needed to discuss it makes it all the sweeter, like it's a given, as natural as a cup of tea in the morning, or a shared cigarette. Mismatch of expectations. Disconnectedness. Twins play a role; one of one pair tells us it isn't like what people think, they aren't telepathic or anything, but we've always been very close, we've always known most stuff about each other. Connected he says, like we're connected. And then he pulls a face and wipes his forehead with his hand and he says well less disconnected than other people at least. So, a novel of mindfulness perhaps. But then, and maybe because I did read it straight through, it began to feel like a sticky toffee pudding, a little cloying on the tongue. The man with the burnt hands, that was well, a bit too much. And then the ending. Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you. I have to acknowledge the audaciousness of the ending, but for me, it did not work. A risk, but a foolish one. McGregor can spin gold, but it all turned back to straw at the end. I would read more by him though. I would.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    I came to this book many years after its publication after reading McGregor’s latest brilliant book Reservoir 13, and was interested to read his debut novel (also Booker longlisted like 3 of his four novels to date). What I found interesting was to contrast the two books Loaded Gun: One of the most fascinating aspects of “Reservoir 13” is that is starts with what seems to be the obvious plot point – the disappearance of the teenage girl – and, in contrast to normal fictional practice, never attemp I came to this book many years after its publication after reading McGregor’s latest brilliant book Reservoir 13, and was interested to read his debut novel (also Booker longlisted like 3 of his four novels to date). What I found interesting was to contrast the two books Loaded Gun: One of the most fascinating aspects of “Reservoir 13” is that is starts with what seems to be the obvious plot point – the disappearance of the teenage girl – and, in contrast to normal fictional practice, never attempts to resolve it. As McGregor says, he set out to play with normal expectations “it’s like if you have a gun on the table, it has to be fired by the third act”. In this book by contrast, we gradually realise that some form of event occurred and the book builds up to the resolution of it. When it is finally revealed it turns out to be a bigger event than we (or even any of those involved) realised - and in fact truly "remarkable" Chronology: Reservoir 13 concentrates on two main time scales – the passing of time over the years, and the seasonality and rhythm of time within each year. This book by contrast is half set over the course of a single day at the end of Summer, and half over a few days several years later. Events (dear boy): Reservoir 13’s is all about ordinary life and bringing out the patterns, repetition and seasonal rituals within it – this book concentrates on a “remarkable” day which affects the lives of those involved in it for ever. While Reservoir 13 starts with an unusual event, the impact of which dampens away over time, this book culminates in an unusual event, and leads up to it by directly examining the impact of the event on the lives of not just those involved, but even the indirect impact on others. Narrative voice: Reservoir 13 deliberately uses a passive voice of an omniscient narrator to capture the nature of an English village “it was noted that ….”. This book uses a mix of first person and third party point of view present tense, told strictly from the viewpoint of the person whose point of view we are in, and enabling us to capture something of their thoughts, feelings and secrets but also how little they understand of the thoughts, feelings and secrets not just of their anonymous neighbours but often even those close to them. Nature: In Reservoir 13, animals and plant life are as much part of the village as its human inhabitants, this book is an urban world where traffic noise forms the urban landscape. Use of names: One of the more striking aspects of Reservoir 13 is the copious character list, each introduced by name, whose descriptions and characters gradually emerge over time. In this book by contrast, names are almost never used, every character is known by a verbal description of their appearance or behaviour (which is how they are largely known to each other) – even the narrator of the “present day” first party sections only gradually becomes clear to us as the character in the “remarkable day” third party descriptions. Michael is clearly shocked that the (unnamed narrator) does not know his brother’s name despite the brother’s obsession with her. Community: Related to this – Reservoir 13 captures brilliantly the life of a small village, where everyone not only knows each other but knows each other’s history and family. By contrast this book concentrates (and captures equally brilliantly) a very different community – a street of short term lets (particularly students) who know almost nothing about each other and how lose contact almost immediately after they leave the street (so that the narrator knows nothing of the fate of Michael’s brother despite the presumably dramatic discovery of it only a day or so after she leaves the street).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Before picking up this book you should know a few things. - Punctuation is lacking. - Characters are for the most part not given names. - This is a mystery, a puzzle to be solved. Due to lack of punctuation perhaps an audiobook is the format to choose? I am glad I did. Characters are identified through their physical attributes, their behavioral ticks and the number of their lodging on a street in a town somewhere in northern England. A completely unremarkable town and unremarkable people. There Before picking up this book you should know a few things. - Punctuation is lacking. - Characters are for the most part not given names. - This is a mystery, a puzzle to be solved. Due to lack of punctuation perhaps an audiobook is the format to choose? I am glad I did. Characters are identified through their physical attributes, their behavioral ticks and the number of their lodging on a street in a town somewhere in northern England. A completely unremarkable town and unremarkable people. There is a family with mother and father, a daughter and twin boys. A kid on a tricycle. A girl with square glasses. A widower with scarred hands and his young daughter. A boy in his early twenties with dry, irritated eyes who takes photos, collects junk and records what he sees. An architect student. An elderly man with his wife; he is harboring a terrible secret. Up in an attic apartment, a couple in the throes of passion. A girl chasing angels, a bungee jumper, a guy cleaning his sneakers. We return over and over to the different characters and gradually learn bits about them. Why does the man have scarred hands? How did the shoe become dirty? What is the secret withheld? To untie the characters, to decipher who is who with only scant tidbits of information, takes work. I made a list of the house numbers and jotted down all that I learned about their respective residents. This is a mystery. Something terrible has happened. We know this at the start. We watch as the day progresses and the event finally occurs. That day is August 31, 1997. We watch what happens on that day, watch what the residents of numbers 18 and 20 and 11 and 17 and 19 and 22 and 21 and 13 and 20 do. We spend five minutes here, a glance there, flitting from one person to another. This is a puzzle. There is suspense and the reader works to sort out who is who. And of course, we are guessing from the start what we think has happened. This thread is told by an omniscient narrator. There is another thread. A woman there that day looks back and also tell us about her current situation, now three years later. This thread uses a first-person narrator. Her current predicament is tied to what happened on that day. Both the characters and the events are presented as a mystery, a puzzle to be solved. Solving the puzzle takes work. We watch and observe the people living their separate lives. Ordinary neighbors on a street. Then something happens. Look at the title. One may ask what is so remarkable about these people and their lives. My response would be that it is in the ordinary that the remarkable is to be found. I like this message. The lines read as a prose poem. The writing is lyrical and contemplative. Besides the book’s message, it is the writing that drew me. I was bored at times. For example, there is that guy cleaning a shoe, and we return to him again and again and he is still cleaning that shoe. I was annoyed at how information is teasingly revealed. I felt I was part of a game I didn’t want to play. I want to get close to characters. That does not happen here; we observe, we watch, we are on the outside. There is little dialog. That the woman speaking three years later is (view spoiler)[pregnant with twins is simply dropped in thin air (hide spoiler)] , but what lies ahead for her is indeed dependent on what happened that day. Who it is that (view spoiler)[dies (hide spoiler)] is a surprise. I guess that is a positive point, but on the other hand it is said and then the book is immediately over and there you sit. A very abrupt ending. The audiobook is narrated by two. Matt Bates reads the information about the diverse residents on the street on that day the event takes place. He reads the lines of the omniscient narrator. This is very well done. He gives us a clear and sharp presentation of facts. I find his narration worthy of four stars. Melody Grove narrates the lines of the woman who three years later is looking back and telling us of her current situation. I found this presentation too calm, too unperturbed and sweet, but I could always understand what she said, and so have given her narration three stars. I like the prose and the message of the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex Csicsek

    This is a poetic novel about a typical summer day with a decidedly atypical climax in the life of a dense urban street in an unnamed English city. The plot holds readers' interest but this novel's real gem is its characters. McGregor conjures up a residential city street and the people who populate it. From the old couple getting on the bus to the strange boy with the nervous tick, from the rambucuntious twins playing cricket in the street to the young adults recovering from a night of dancing, t This is a poetic novel about a typical summer day with a decidedly atypical climax in the life of a dense urban street in an unnamed English city. The plot holds readers' interest but this novel's real gem is its characters. McGregor conjures up a residential city street and the people who populate it. From the old couple getting on the bus to the strange boy with the nervous tick, from the rambucuntious twins playing cricket in the street to the young adults recovering from a night of dancing, the author has a gift for creating real human beings whose flaws make the reader want to hug and wrap up in our arms and let them know they're safe for now. The minutiae of their actions constitute some of the most poignoint moments I have ever read - when the shy little girl points to the artist's drawing of their street and asks meekly asks "will the dog go there?", my heart melted. When the girl with short hair and glasses realizes two tea cups on a table can be a beautiful thing, I nearly cried. This book is full of lovely characters doing those kinds of lovely things. I stood in awe of McGregor's ability to draw out the beauty and greatness in the most average of people. It's not only the people but the narratives in which they play: from the profoundly momentous to the profoundly mundane, McGregor reveals the importance in every moment of life in this excellent novel. If nobody speaks of remarkable things then nobody will notice how remarkable they truly are. This novel speaks of the most ordinary things, and in doing so shows us they are quite simply remarkable. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    If nobody speaks of incredibly mundane things... To be fair, I've never much cared for this particular style of writing. The present tense prose is a little too sparse for my taste. The narrative structure, a little too self-conscious. There's a deliberately generic quality to the setting and characters. I suppose this was done to emphasize the basic human condition. But, how can you love your characters if you don't even name them? This sort of book alienates me, in a way, because everyone is gen If nobody speaks of incredibly mundane things... To be fair, I've never much cared for this particular style of writing. The present tense prose is a little too sparse for my taste. The narrative structure, a little too self-conscious. There's a deliberately generic quality to the setting and characters. I suppose this was done to emphasize the basic human condition. But, how can you love your characters if you don't even name them? This sort of book alienates me, in a way, because everyone is generically alike...and no one is anything like me. It makes me feel a little angry at Jon McGregor! No one speaks for everyone. Even his "outsiders" are so normalized as to be painted right out of existence. There's only one truly significant event in the story, but the specifics of that event are withheld until the very end of the book. Apparently, McGregor is making the argument that the minute and unremarked upon details of one's day are truly remarkable (for some reason). And, perhaps, he's also trying to say that dramatic and unremarked upon events get drowned out by everyday minutia. And, yes, certainly, we're meant to notice all the little things that could possibly result in a (yet ambiguous) tragedy. In any case, the never ending minutia bored me to death! I just can't bring myself to care about the contents of Everyman's medicine cabinet. --Incidentally, there are entirely too many bathroom scenes in this book! Save some of the mystery, baby! I'm just sayin'. And, that's not the only story element that's excruciatingly repetitive. There are the constant references to names and anonymity. And, the constant fake-outs. The narrative has so much back-tracking and ominous foreshadowing, you want to scream, "Someone just die, already!"...which is generally frowned upon in polite society... Every so often I'll a see a negative goodreads review of a book that I love. The reviewer will say something like, "This was a whole lot of nothing. Who cares?" And, I'll think, "No, no, you don't get it! It's a multi-layered and poignant tale of...[well, usually alienation]. This book, to me, was a whole lot of nothing. But, maybe I just don't "get" contemporary literature! Oh well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen P

    Discrete poetic whispers of moments. The means by which they connect or disconnect. I cannot write a review now just finishing reading but possibly…no there is no future, only now and all there is to see, to know, to feel; to read and reread this book over and again. To live in this world. The moment of this world. Without realizing I mouth the words as I read, chanting a somnambulistic prayer, a murmured choir, a pulse on its tremble of its next beat. Consciousness spreading, sharpening, honed to Discrete poetic whispers of moments. The means by which they connect or disconnect. I cannot write a review now just finishing reading but possibly…no there is no future, only now and all there is to see, to know, to feel; to read and reread this book over and again. To live in this world. The moment of this world. Without realizing I mouth the words as I read, chanting a somnambulistic prayer, a murmured choir, a pulse on its tremble of its next beat. Consciousness spreading, sharpening, honed to a cabalistic point. Is it possible for one to continue living the life one knew. The sealed casing of Kafka”s axe broken open wide. Then the awe of the knitting needles twirling in blurred images, somehow holding it all together and with infinite care delicately purls the minute threading into its barely seen connecting pattern and a harsh gasp at the end. So tempting to sweep up the scattered remains of an existence I once called my own and spend the afternoon resettling things back into place. The alternative is to move without packing. What looks like now an empty endless road with no markings to gain bearings. But what of the flutter of ghosts? Remarkable things happen; happen all the time, are happening right now; and now to live newly within them; guideless.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    this is an interesting novel which was nominated for the booker prize.written almost like a prose poem, it is the story of a group of people living in one block somewhere in england.very few of the characters are given names, they are identified solely by their flat numbers (the boy in number 18, for example).at the very beginning of the book an unnamed tragedy occurs and you have to wait almost 275 pages to find out what happened.unfortunately after all this time, the ending is weak, which i ha this is an interesting novel which was nominated for the booker prize.written almost like a prose poem, it is the story of a group of people living in one block somewhere in england.very few of the characters are given names, they are identified solely by their flat numbers (the boy in number 18, for example).at the very beginning of the book an unnamed tragedy occurs and you have to wait almost 275 pages to find out what happened.unfortunately after all this time, the ending is weak, which i had read elsewhere on goodreads.i still think it is a very brave book, written in a very unconventional style.especially for a debut novel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Baba

    British writer Jon McGregor's debut novel, inspired by the death of Princess Diana and the multiplicity of related and unrelated things that occur in a day on a street. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is a microcosm of the days on on unnamed English street and that street's various inhabitants. The book moves form resident to resident with a third party narrator describing their actions and inner worlds over the course the single day, the last day of Summer in 1997. These sections are inter British writer Jon McGregor's debut novel, inspired by the death of Princess Diana and the multiplicity of related and unrelated things that occur in a day on a street. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is a microcosm of the days on on unnamed English street and that street's various inhabitants. The book moves form resident to resident with a third party narrator describing their actions and inner worlds over the course the single day, the last day of Summer in 1997. These sections are inter-cut with first person narrated young woman character, who has recently discovered that she's pregnant and her story covers several days. The intertwining of these narrators and the woman's main story provide the suspense. This book notably won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award, issued by the Society of Authors. 7 out of 23

  15. 4 out of 5

    Giedre

    There is nothing remarkable about the characters of this book. They are ordinary neighbors of a run-down neighborhood, living their ordinary lives, going through their ordinary routines, talking about ordinary things. Yet Jon McGregor, the author of "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" subtly shows us that the ordinary can be and is remarkable. He traces the lives of a group of people living in the same street, connected only by this fact, during a period of one day. We also get to know one o There is nothing remarkable about the characters of this book. They are ordinary neighbors of a run-down neighborhood, living their ordinary lives, going through their ordinary routines, talking about ordinary things. Yet Jon McGregor, the author of "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" subtly shows us that the ordinary can be and is remarkable. He traces the lives of a group of people living in the same street, connected only by this fact, during a period of one day. We also get to know one of them, a girl with short blonde hair and square glasses, deeper, meeting her a few years later, and often jumping back to that ordinary remarkable day in her old neighborhood. McGregor only presents us with tiny bits of a day-long fragment of the lives of the characters, and still it is enough to begin caring for them, to be drawn deep into their worlds, to learn of their personal dramas, so important to each of them, and of which the rest of the characters are totally oblivious. I think I couldn't have loved this book more. The way the author presented the mundane as something so special and the fragility of our lives in such a subtle and poetic way, must have touched a sensitive spot in me. Simply beautiful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Deea

    In this non-conventional book the author talks about the everyday lives of the citizens of a certain neighborhood in the UK. He writes the phrases in such a way that everything these un-named characters do seems remarkable. Every single trivial action they do is written in such a poetic way as to seem remarkable. They don't have names (they are only identified by the number of the apartment they stay in or by certain features) and this anonymity seems to indicate that this story could apply to a In this non-conventional book the author talks about the everyday lives of the citizens of a certain neighborhood in the UK. He writes the phrases in such a way that everything these un-named characters do seems remarkable. Every single trivial action they do is written in such a poetic way as to seem remarkable. They don't have names (they are only identified by the number of the apartment they stay in or by certain features) and this anonymity seems to indicate that this story could apply to any neighborhood, to any side of our very busy cities. Certain characters are very interesting: there is this boy who blinks a lot, who is totally in love with a girl from the neighborhood who doesn't even notice him. Although he seems to be a bit of a shy weirdo from outside, he is actually a very interesting character: passionate about archeology and anthropology, he would like to know all the humans better and he realizes that he doesn't even know the characters from his neighborhood well. In an attempt to see how an archeological-antropological study about his neighbors would look, he gathers objects and takes snapshots of his neighbors trying in this manner to know a bit of each one and to somehow make a bigger mental picture of the humans surrounding him. The girl who is pregnant and befriends the boy described above's twin brother is also very interesting. She befriends Michael, the twin, only to have someone to hold on to. Her relationship with her parents is bizarre, even that with her friends is not very common. Her mother is bizarre as well and we are not revealed the reason why she had had such a bad relation with her own mother. All the characters are interesting in their own way, but I will not talk about each of them here: they are all scarred somehow, some visibly (the father with the burned hands who didn't manage to save his wife from a fire), others invisibly (the old man who has a terminal lung disease and doesn't tell his wife in order to protect her, the mother of the pregnant girl who was relieved at her mother's death). If no one speaks of remarkable things, they seem not even to be there. Our neighbors seem like the pawns on a chess-table: characters whom we don't know at all, whose individuality doesn't exist in our mind. However, they all live, love, suffer, have pains, endure losses, are governed by emotions and each external stimulus has a certain different impact on all of them. The author managed to create a central event (the accident) and to study its impact on the people of a neighborhood to whose members the reader has intimately been introduced. I think this is amazing: it's like managing to extract the historical facts of an event after having gathered all the archaeological proofs and putting them together.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jayne Charles

    This book scores incredibly highly on the modern literature gimmickry checklist. Let's see now...... Not a speech mark in the place...CHECK Hardly any of the characters named....CHECK Hanging paragraphs....hmmm that's innovative....CHECK Speech reported warts and all so it takes three readings of each sentence to make out what is being said ...CHECK Most of the commas and a good few full-stops left out....CHECK On that basis it should be a bestseller! The trouble is it's a tough read, made tough This book scores incredibly highly on the modern literature gimmickry checklist. Let's see now...... Not a speech mark in the place...CHECK Hardly any of the characters named....CHECK Hanging paragraphs....hmmm that's innovative....CHECK Speech reported warts and all so it takes three readings of each sentence to make out what is being said ...CHECK Most of the commas and a good few full-stops left out....CHECK On that basis it should be a bestseller! The trouble is it's a tough read, made tougher by the fact that the event central to the 'story' is withheld until the very end, stretching the reader's capacity to care about the nameless characters and their formless angst. To give the author his due, he can write very good poetic prose, and dreams up some interesting scenarios. The trouble is, it's all a bit Turner Prize. As though someone painted a brilliant picture, but instead of just framing it and letting people enjoy it, he scribbled all over it so it was impossible to see what was originally there.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Dembina

    I've only read a couple of books by Mr McGregor, I've enjoyed both. This has a lot of similarities to Reservoir 13 in that there's a large cast of characters living on the same street - all connected by a terrible event. The language is plain and simple but can develop a lot of emotional heft via understatement. None of the people are named (with one vital exception) but are identified by identifying characteristics. There's a twist right at the very end which although it works I don't think was I've only read a couple of books by Mr McGregor, I've enjoyed both. This has a lot of similarities to Reservoir 13 in that there's a large cast of characters living on the same street - all connected by a terrible event. The language is plain and simple but can develop a lot of emotional heft via understatement. None of the people are named (with one vital exception) but are identified by identifying characteristics. There's a twist right at the very end which although it works I don't think was strictly necessary. On balance I prefer Reservoir 13 but would still recommend this one

  19. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This book had so little in the way of plot or character development (in fact, we never learn the name of nearly everyone) that I am not sure it qualifies as a novel. I am surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe the relatively short length kept me from losing patience with the highly descriptive tone of it. This is the account of one late summer day in the lives of the residents on a block of flats. I felt like a voyeur as the literary camera swung into flat after flat exposing the ac This book had so little in the way of plot or character development (in fact, we never learn the name of nearly everyone) that I am not sure it qualifies as a novel. I am surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe the relatively short length kept me from losing patience with the highly descriptive tone of it. This is the account of one late summer day in the lives of the residents on a block of flats. I felt like a voyeur as the literary camera swung into flat after flat exposing the actions and thoughts of these people. With the exception of one character, these lives are narrated in the omniscient third person, but without back story, we are only given the actions and thoughts of the present moment. The first person narrative exception is told from a few days or weeks beyond this date and notifies the reader that some dramatic event took place, dividing the day into before and after. I am not sure what the “remarkable things” of the title refers to. Is it the dramatic event which looms over the pages, unseen by its inhabitants? Is it the pivotal moments of birth and death, of love and loss unfolding on this ordinary street in such ordinary lives, the mother who cannot speak of her childhood to her adult daughter, the husband of many years who could never speak of his war experience, the man who keeps his cancer diagnosis secret from his wife? Is it the abundant moments of stunning beauty, of jaw-dropping awe that most of us fail to even notice: birds flying in perfect formation, light refracted through water droplets, a woman checking on her sleeping children in the wee hours of the morning, a young father dressing his toddler with hands scarred beyond use by a fire? The writing was so vivid that I saw, heard, smelt and felt every bit of this day, held fast by some inexplicable power.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ian Kirkpatrick

    I thought I would re-read “if nobody speaks of remarkable things” as it had been a few years since I last read it. I remember being very impressed by Jon McGregor when I initially read the book (I was going through a phase of reading debut novels at the time). McGregor’s writing style is poetic; beautifully and meticulously structured. The story of a single day slowly unfolds through a series of little vignettes that slowly connect together, like projections on gauze. The narrative develops like I thought I would re-read “if nobody speaks of remarkable things” as it had been a few years since I last read it. I remember being very impressed by Jon McGregor when I initially read the book (I was going through a phase of reading debut novels at the time). McGregor’s writing style is poetic; beautifully and meticulously structured. The story of a single day slowly unfolds through a series of little vignettes that slowly connect together, like projections on gauze. The narrative develops like a series of Polaroid snapshots, each slowly becoming clear to the reader, as you piece together the events of a seemingly unremarkable day. The multiple narration where the same event is seen through the filter of different eyes creates a series of repeating echoes with a cinematic sweep of motifs and images. The tone is carefully measured throughout, and McGregor deliberately chooses to avoid inverted commas for speech marks. In fact he seems to have a bit of an aversion towards punctuation generally. The structure interweaves the main first person unnamed narrator in the present (a girl facing her own personal crisis) back to the events of this specific Sunday. Each character is described rather than being given a name which creates a deliberate sense of detachment and anonymity, and forces the reader to really concentrate to remember who’s who, which is quite a clever ploy. Some reviewers have criticised the resultant sense of emotional detachment, but this seems to rather miss the point. I found the book completely mesmeric and entrancing. I am certain I’ll be re-reading it again. As a piece of writing I think it’s a truly remarkable achievement.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laala Kashef Alghata

    “He sees a boy and a girl, the boy is sleeping, they are both naked and tangled up in each other, the light in the room is clean and golden and happiness is seeping out through the window, the girl looks at him and smiles and whispers good afternoon.” ~ If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Jon McGregor This was an amazing book. Gorgeously written, and it seems to bring forth some beautiful, eloquent version of reality. It’s set in the suburbs of England, on a single street, and alternates betwe “He sees a boy and a girl, the boy is sleeping, they are both naked and tangled up in each other, the light in the room is clean and golden and happiness is seeping out through the window, the girl looks at him and smiles and whispers good afternoon.” ~ If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Jon McGregor This was an amazing book. Gorgeously written, and it seems to bring forth some beautiful, eloquent version of reality. It’s set in the suburbs of England, on a single street, and alternates between the people living on the street, showing us insight into their lives, and how different and diverse, yet very human we all are. From the very beginning, we are aware that this day (the accounts are from one day) ended with a horrible occurrence, but we aren’t told what it is until the very end, thus casting a dark cloud over all the events. I loved reading this because of McGregor’s style. It’s very poetic, very descriptive, and frequently feels like he has personally read your mind and put some of your thoughts into writing. It’s a book that made me want to read more of the author, that made me believe once again that beautiful, poetic prose is possible in a novel.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Manuela M

    Sheer prose. If you are the type of reader that must re-read a beautiful sentence just for the joy of reading a beautiful sentence, or catch your breath when reading a description too perfect for words, then this is the book for you. It's right from the begining, the text is more poem then prose. This is a really well written book, and it draws you right in from the begining - a description of the "song of the city" that you can hear if you just listen to the little sounds going on. very entranci Sheer prose. If you are the type of reader that must re-read a beautiful sentence just for the joy of reading a beautiful sentence, or catch your breath when reading a description too perfect for words, then this is the book for you. It's right from the begining, the text is more poem then prose. This is a really well written book, and it draws you right in from the begining - a description of the "song of the city" that you can hear if you just listen to the little sounds going on. very entrancing. In general, there is great attention to detail, which makes one feel as if they are part of the book, the plot, as if on is the character described. An extraordinary look at how an ordinary day can cary so many remarkable moments. very beautiful.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phee

    Wow I really wasnt expecting to like this one as much as I did. I've found myself drawn to more tragic and impactful things since the pandemic. I've had to deal with so much death and heart ache that most of the time, I feel empty these days. I am drawn to story's that are going to make me feel something. I want to feel something disconnected from everything that is going on in the world right now and this really ticked the box. It's like a little snapshot in time and it's so different to anythi Wow I really wasnt expecting to like this one as much as I did. I've found myself drawn to more tragic and impactful things since the pandemic. I've had to deal with so much death and heart ache that most of the time, I feel empty these days. I am drawn to story's that are going to make me feel something. I want to feel something disconnected from everything that is going on in the world right now and this really ticked the box. It's like a little snapshot in time and it's so different to anything that I've read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

    Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) In a general, very oversimplified sense, the reason we, as humans, have names is as a way to distinguish us from one another. When I was a small writer, knee-high to a grasshopper (actually, as my parents will tell you, I was never less than knee-high to a baluchitherium, but that's beside the point), one of the things I always thought would be cool was to write a novel that had no names whatsoever in it, where everyone Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) In a general, very oversimplified sense, the reason we, as humans, have names is as a way to distinguish us from one another. When I was a small writer, knee-high to a grasshopper (actually, as my parents will tell you, I was never less than knee-high to a baluchitherium, but that's beside the point), one of the things I always thought would be cool was to write a novel that had no names whatsoever in it, where everyone would be distinguished by, well, other distinguishing features. A bunch of us did this with short stories in high school, and they worked pretty well, so why not a novel? Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian never actually names protagonist Sam Chamberlain, referring to him as “the Kid” the entire five-hundred-plus pages, why can't you do that with all your characters? Well, the simple reason is that eventually, you will run to too many characters. A novel is longer than a short story, and there are only so many characters one can keep straight by distinguishing features without taking notes. And while I'm a fan of taking notes while reading (not only am I am media critic, and thus take notes during everything, but I also read a good deal of nonfiction), I have to say that any novel that forces you to take notes is probably going to be too much work for most folks. And that is the situation with If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. Now, in the synopsis below, I'm going to do a bit of the work for you, so take notes. I should mention that some of the below may be considered minor spoilers for the book (I'm assuming that since McGregor didn't specify some of these things, he meant the reader to gradually discover them on his own, as I did), but trust me, when you get round to reading this, I think you'll be grateful. The novel takes place in two separate time periods, in two separate places. One of them occurs three years before the other. The earlier time period concerns a morning on a lower-class street, and is full of quite beautiful descriptions of the street itself and the people living in it, many of whom are packing to leave after staying there for a summer (going back to school, presumably, or perhaps just not renewing their leases). This is the section of the book that contains no names; people are described by the house numbers where they live, and one other descriptive (there's the boy with the white shirt, the girl with the glitter round her eyes, etc.). The jacket copy tells us there's a mystery about this section of the book, but the book itself doesn't tell you that until well into itself. The later time period concerns a girl who used to live on the street-- for the life of me, though I have a general idea of who she is from the memories of the people she interacted with, I can't tell you what her number or identifying characteristic was-- who's drifted away from the people she used to know there. She has her own mystery, revealed about halfway through the book, that has nothing to do with the previous timeline. The rest of her story concerns how she deals with that mystery. I think part of the reason this book missed with me is illustrated in one of the cover blurbs, where the reviewer (I can't remember who it was, nor can I quote, as the book is now back at the library) focuses on the fact that McGregor is writing about the lower class, examining them in the same way some writer examine the more monied classes. Had that not been pointed out, I'd have never made the distinction; in fact, I'm only aware the neighborhood is lower class because of that blurb, and because (if I recall correctly) one of McGregor's characters mentions it in passing somewhere in the book. If there were other signs that these characters were living in a lower-class situation, I either missed them or don't see those markers as class distinctions. Because of this, I didn't see this book as being terribly different than any other novel of its type, save the lack of names. I do think I understand what McGregor was trying to do there-- by stripping the characters of almost all their identifying characteristics, we are forced to not make any sorts of judgments about them based on their race, sex, social status, or what have you-- but I think it was taken too far here. There's a difference between not wanting the reader to make judgments about characters and forcing the reader into a tunnel vision as equally artificial as that which stems from racism/classism/what have you. Of course, it didn't help that the big mystery is so clumsily foreshadowed in the opening pages that you'll probably have figured out what it is by the time you've gotten through the first bit (the book contains no proper chapters, only pauses between the two storylines as they alternate). I'm notoriously slow regarding things like that, and I had it figured out by page five. Not impressed with this one, sorry to say. **

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ksenia Chernyshova

    Best book of the year without a doubt. I love poignant novels, and this one is a definition of poignant. I can't recommend this one enough if you're into lyrical, poetic writing with complex characters and an everyday, almost plotless plot that focuses on feelings rather than events. Before starting it, I thought it might be very slow, and I was prepared to read it for a few weeks, maybe combine with some other novels, but I was lost inside from page one and couldn't stop reading. Don't miss this Best book of the year without a doubt. I love poignant novels, and this one is a definition of poignant. I can't recommend this one enough if you're into lyrical, poetic writing with complex characters and an everyday, almost plotless plot that focuses on feelings rather than events. Before starting it, I thought it might be very slow, and I was prepared to read it for a few weeks, maybe combine with some other novels, but I was lost inside from page one and couldn't stop reading. Don't miss this one. Also, everybody there drinks tea ALL THE TIME, and I love it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hebwood

    This is certainly a beautifully written novel. As in good poetry, form and content embrace, feeding off each other and creating an ephemeral "feel", rather than a story. Somehow, this "feel" manages to separate itself from the language which transports it, rather like the scent of perfume tends to linger after the liquid that carried it has long evaporated. Reading this book requires subtlety - look too hard at what you are reading and you may bring down its delicate structure, think too deeply This is certainly a beautifully written novel. As in good poetry, form and content embrace, feeding off each other and creating an ephemeral "feel", rather than a story. Somehow, this "feel" manages to separate itself from the language which transports it, rather like the scent of perfume tends to linger after the liquid that carried it has long evaporated. Reading this book requires subtlety - look too hard at what you are reading and you may bring down its delicate structure, think too deeply about what is going on and you may lose sight of what is going on. As a taster, this sort of line is typical of what I mean: "... a treeful of birds tricked into morning, a whistle and a shout and a broken glass, a blare of soft music and a blam of hard beats, a barking and yelling and singing and crying and it all swells up all the rumbles and crashes and bangings and slams, all the noise and the rush and the non-stop wonder of the song of the city you can hear if you listen..." Wow. Mesmeric. A build-up in energy, from a slow start to a breathless crescendo. There is definitely meter, but it does not conform to any of the classic Greek metrical lines. Still, the meter becomes more regular and uninterrupted by pauses half way through the passage, creating the effect that the tension builds up... Ok and the feeling is gone. That's what I meant. Look too hard and you destroy this book's ephemeral quality. And yet, I was struggling to come to terms with what is being narrated here. Right from the start there was a hypnotic quality to Jon's prose. At the danger of contradicting my own advice, I think this quality emerges as the joint effect of three devices (1) the novel does not talk about remarkable things - the narrator traces perfectly dull, everyday experiences of people living in a street in a Northern English town. (2) present tense as narrative time makes these events more immediate, but as they are dull, the reader is immersed in trivia, with a mesmerising, rather than invigorating, effect. (3) the time it takes to narrate an event (narrative time) is almost as long as the event would take to play itself out in reality (narrated time). Again, since the events narrated are dull, narrative time dilation has an intensely immersive effect. This is not "24". Indeed, the reader reads this book at his own peril. At the peril of getting exceedingly bored, in fact. What keeps the dramatic tension going is the interplay between two narrative modes. One is an omniscient narrator narrating in the present tense events that take place on the day of a traumatic event, leading up to that event. And an "I-narrator", who looks back on this traumatic event from a position three years after it happened. But again, there is a risk here. There is a very real chance that the reader may miss the omniscient narrator's point in time, and if you do so, there is a chance you miss most of the dramatic tension in the text. Not that this is what happened to me. Ok fine, so that is what happened to me. But I went back to the start and enjoyed this book fine after I got that. Still, this is a book driven by neither events nor plot. Nothing is happening here. It is an elusive feel that Jon captures masterfully. A feel that is rent apart by the traumatic event. Well worth picking up, but it needs to come with a health warning: This book demands a contemplative mood, and it deserves to be read when in such a mood - otherwise the reader will miss the subtleties that make this an extraordinary read, emotionally involving and psychologically engaging. As a personal aside: A few months after I finished this novel, I was walking down Ocean Drive, looking for a place to have dinner. On my way to the restaurant, I saw a chap lying in the middle of the street, obviously the victim of an accident, with paramedics tending to him and an ambulance waiting. The shocking part was that you could see blood on the street flowing from the victim's head - it looked bad, as if the chap might only barely survive, and if so, only with severe brain damage. That was the traumatic event. Two hours later, I walked back past that same spot. Ocen Drive was restored to its normal self. Diners looking for a place to eat, restaurants looking for diners to serve, roller-bladers and passers-by enjoying the mild climate of an early spring evening, local bums gathering on the beach, swaying drunkenly to the distant music of the bars. The blood was washed off, the ambulance gone, and there was nothing that would have reminded anybody of the traumatic event. In Miami, people do not speak about remarkable things. Ocean Drive is not Norfolk.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hitchcock

    One of the best books I've ever read and one of the few I will definitely re-read. I fell in love from the very first page. The opening is beautifully poetic and although nothing really happened I was hooked and hoping that nothing continued to happen so that I could enjoy the prose. Things did begin to happen, although they were every-day, mundane, unremarkable things made interesting by the writing. The "chapters" alternate between the detailed, wonderful description of a typical late Summers One of the best books I've ever read and one of the few I will definitely re-read. I fell in love from the very first page. The opening is beautifully poetic and although nothing really happened I was hooked and hoping that nothing continued to happen so that I could enjoy the prose. Things did begin to happen, although they were every-day, mundane, unremarkable things made interesting by the writing. The "chapters" alternate between the detailed, wonderful description of a typical late Summers day in a Northern street and it's residents, and a woman who used to live in that street dealing with some unwanted news years later as well as memories of a terrible event that occurred on the Summers day. My favourite thing about the book is how it's written, but the story is one of the most moving I've read despite being one that is not particularly important or remarkable. I had a tear in my eye as the terrible event occurred in the last few pages and felt for characters that I barely even knew. But as I said, I'm not going to re-read this because of the story, I'm going to re-read it for the descriptions of things I never thought to notice. And because it's written unlike any novel I've read before.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    I don't know if "poetic prose" is a thing, but that's how I would classify this. McGregor uses beautifully poetic language to describe the wonders of the mundane, the captured simple moments that define life and make it worth living, but that we so often take for granted. Yes, there is an underlying heavy moment that's hinted at in the very beginning, and the novel builds towards that climax throughout, but the stories that are weaved together are those of ordinary lives lived by ordinary people I don't know if "poetic prose" is a thing, but that's how I would classify this. McGregor uses beautifully poetic language to describe the wonders of the mundane, the captured simple moments that define life and make it worth living, but that we so often take for granted. Yes, there is an underlying heavy moment that's hinted at in the very beginning, and the novel builds towards that climax throughout, but the stories that are weaved together are those of ordinary lives lived by ordinary people, and the beauty in each of those lives and connections. There is the father who has lost so much trying to teach his young daughter about appreciating those moments, and the family that struggled so much to come into being, still taking joy in one another, and the friendships of the moment and enjoying just THIS point in time, not always living in the future. Yes it moves slowly in places, but the overarching tapestry is rich and well-told. 4.5/5

  29. 5 out of 5

    Albert Vandersteeg

    The first thing I noticed was that the writer doesn't honour the rules of grammar. I'm that kind of reader most of the time, but when you can write like this, I think you are allowed to make your own rules. It's a great book; I immediately felt a sort of relationship with "Under Milk Wood" by Dylan Thomas and "Ulysses" by James Joyce. It's about an ordinary world, it could be around the corner of our street, but the specialty of it will be etched in my brain for a very long time. The book made q The first thing I noticed was that the writer doesn't honour the rules of grammar. I'm that kind of reader most of the time, but when you can write like this, I think you are allowed to make your own rules. It's a great book; I immediately felt a sort of relationship with "Under Milk Wood" by Dylan Thomas and "Ulysses" by James Joyce. It's about an ordinary world, it could be around the corner of our street, but the specialty of it will be etched in my brain for a very long time. The book made quite a big impression on me. There is a melancholy in the story that is never outspoken, but simmers between the lines. There are also a few questions you notice and even when you think you might know the answers you read on while it's a book about real life and life always throws surprises to you. I can recommend this book wholeheartedly.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara Williams

    A book that beautifuly explores the awe in the mundane, that explores the characters in this one neighbourhood in England and follows them around as they go on about their lives. A marvellous book, but not for everyone. If anything, it will come across as boring to the average reader but it really is only an exercise of the quotidian. The novel leads up to this one main event at its end and it flicks on from the past to the present. It is a slow paced book, with the most detailed descriptions, b A book that beautifuly explores the awe in the mundane, that explores the characters in this one neighbourhood in England and follows them around as they go on about their lives. A marvellous book, but not for everyone. If anything, it will come across as boring to the average reader but it really is only an exercise of the quotidian. The novel leads up to this one main event at its end and it flicks on from the past to the present. It is a slow paced book, with the most detailed descriptions, but it truly has an embracing writing style and I absolutely devoured its words.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.