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Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing. Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, se Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing. Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. As the seasons unfold and the search for the missing girl goes on, there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together and those who break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a tragedy refuse to subside.


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Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing. Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, se Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing. Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. As the seasons unfold and the search for the missing girl goes on, there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together and those who break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a tragedy refuse to subside.

30 review for Reservoir 13

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This is the first novel that I have read by this author and I loved it. This is less a novel about crime and more a reflective meditation of the flow and rhythms of nature, the lives and actions of characters throughout a period of years. It is a story of ordinariness, the reality of how life is in the country and delivered with understated prose. I could not help but be moved by the narrative and enchanted by the poetic and lyrical writing. It is set in a village in the Peak District and is oste This is the first novel that I have read by this author and I loved it. This is less a novel about crime and more a reflective meditation of the flow and rhythms of nature, the lives and actions of characters throughout a period of years. It is a story of ordinariness, the reality of how life is in the country and delivered with understated prose. I could not help but be moved by the narrative and enchanted by the poetic and lyrical writing. It is set in a village in the Peak District and is ostensibly about the disappearance of a 13 year old girl, Rebecca or Becky, on a walk in the hills with her parents on New Year's Eve. This hits the village hard, police and emergency services are called. For a while, things come to a abrupt halt, search parties are organised, they look everywhere they can think of but all to no avail. There is talk and suspicions are aired. The Vicar endeavours to ease the travails of the congregation. However, life cannot come to a standstill because of the enormity of the happening and its impact on people. So there is a subtle recalibration with a focus on what actually happens in a community and nature. There are people coming and going, school, love, births, death, jobs to be done, secrets and betrayal. The ongoing cycle of the seasons, the landscape, the power of nature, wildlife and the birds. The elements of Rebecca and her impact on others are interwoven in the story. This is a richly detailed and observational novel rooted in the circle of life, death and nature through the years. It's a slow and absorbing read which may not appeal to readers who prefer a fast paced, action driven read. There is a beat, rhythms and refrains in the prose that dictate a slower reading pace, a necessity, I feel, to take in the beautiful descriptions and writing. An excellent and profound read. Highly recommended. Thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I loved this wonderfully written novel with it’s beautifully detailed prose and unusual style. Winner of the Costa Book Award and Booker nominee, Reservoir 13 was such a fulfilling read. The book is considered a mystery of sorts as it starts with a 13 year old girl going missing when vacationing in an English village with her family. The author describes the continuation of life as the seasons change with the village events of one year for each of the books chapters. I’ve never read such an extra I loved this wonderfully written novel with it’s beautifully detailed prose and unusual style. Winner of the Costa Book Award and Booker nominee, Reservoir 13 was such a fulfilling read. The book is considered a mystery of sorts as it starts with a 13 year old girl going missing when vacationing in an English village with her family. The author describes the continuation of life as the seasons change with the village events of one year for each of the books chapters. I’ve never read such an extraordinary novel with such insight into the cycles of life of peoples lives and nature’s beauty. Everyone and everything is observed with such exceptional detailed prose. McGregor writes about the landscape, birds, plants, and wildlife through life and death. His unusual structure keeps running on so wonderfully. Time goes on. Life moves on one year to the next. Each year the missing girl is still not found. Each chapter brings us to a different reservoir and gets us closer to Reservoir 13 with a feeling of unease as the book progresses. A book of rhythms to be taken slowly. Don’t expect a fast paced mystery. Devour every word and every moment. Many thanks to Carol Kubala for recommending this novel. Highly recommend. 5 out of 5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Lovely descriptions of nature are insufficient compensation for an uneventful plot and a slew of forgettable characters. Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Lovely descriptions of nature are insufficient compensation for an uneventful plot and a slew of forgettable characters.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    I'm not sure that the world needs another review of this fine novel, so I'm going to keep this short. I think by now most of you may already know the basics: the novel opens as a search begins for a teenage girl, Rebecca Shaw, who has gone missing while her family was vacationing in the village for the New Year. However, the novel is not a mystery or a thriller, but instead provides, year by year, micro-updates on life in the village. Each of the novel's 13 chapters covers one year, just as the I'm not sure that the world needs another review of this fine novel, so I'm going to keep this short. I think by now most of you may already know the basics: the novel opens as a search begins for a teenage girl, Rebecca Shaw, who has gone missing while her family was vacationing in the village for the New Year. However, the novel is not a mystery or a thriller, but instead provides, year by year, micro-updates on life in the village. Each of the novel's 13 chapters covers one year, just as the village itself is surrounded by 13 reservoirs, which feature both in the searches for Rebecca Shaw and in the events in and around the village. A social historian, I believe Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in a discussion of her A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, described the experience of reading a colonial diary as akin to walking into a room filled with people you don't know. There's no neat beginning or ending -- important experiences form their lives, relationships may be difficult at first to untangle, knowing which characters are most significant in answering questions or understanding aspects of life in that community may be difficult or impossible at first. It's up to the historian to remain open to possibilities, to trace relationships, to be comfortable with nuance and uncertainty, and to be alive to context that shapes life for members of that community. Ulrich's description of the experiences of a social historian unravelling primary sources is familiar to me from my own work analyzing sexual misconduct records from Hereford Diocese in the late Middle Ages, and perhaps shaped my reaction to Reservoir 13, which I loved. I don't trust neat beginnings and endings of novels. I am much more comfortable with uncertainty, and with relationships among characters that seem to grow organically. Jon McGregor's approach to this novel is extraordinary. His prose is beautiful, contained, and haunting. Even more impressive is the novel's structure. McGregor gives glimpses, in every chapter, to what is happening in the lives of the villagers and some of their visitors. The reader can trace these developments from chapter to chapter through a careful process of accretion. However, there are holes -- characters enter and exit, sometimes without a clear explanation of what has happened to them. Relationships among characters morph over time. Some characters die, some fight, some fall in love, some change jobs. And around these actions is the progress of a year, as seen in weather, festivals and celebrations, the life cycles of animals, and always the changes of the seasons. Shifts in perception are at the heart of this novel, as shown in McGregor's decision to include lines from Wallace Stevens' wonderful poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" as the novel's epigraph: "The river is moving./ The blackbird must be flying." This poem is comprised of 13 stanzas, some of which read almost as haikus, each of which provides a different perspective on a blackbird, and of the person observing the blackbird. There's attention to weather and landscape, movement and stasis, uncertainty and clarity; the only constancy is change. What an apt symbol for this beautiful, sad, very human novel.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    This is my kind of book. Slow moving like the surface of an undisturbed river, yet with currents underneath prepared to carry one away, toss a person like dross in its swirling, or pull one into subterranean depths. From the beginning, we know that a young girl of 13 goes missing and the village where this occurs is never the same. Each chapter explores yet another year in the life of the village and its people, and for me there was a slow-growing undercurrent of nebulous unease as more and more This is my kind of book. Slow moving like the surface of an undisturbed river, yet with currents underneath prepared to carry one away, toss a person like dross in its swirling, or pull one into subterranean depths. From the beginning, we know that a young girl of 13 goes missing and the village where this occurs is never the same. Each chapter explores yet another year in the life of the village and its people, and for me there was a slow-growing undercurrent of nebulous unease as more and more time passed without her being found. I was completely caught up in the life of this village, its people, their concerns, and their lives. I loved how this was written – the small repetitions to trigger key events in our memories, the relationships and how they altered over time, the village concerns and how they were handled – all of it was so well done I had a vivid movie playing behind my eyes throughout. This style of book may not be right for everyone, but it was perfect for me. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys writing that is stirring, magnificent, and sweeping in scope – a meandering read that leads to reflection and insights rather than conclusions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Top 13 Alternate Titles for 'Reservoir 13': 13. Stone Sisters Vs. Millennium Milestones: Discuss 12. The River Rushed Under the Packhorse Bridge, or At the Allotments 11. Cathy & Richard: On Again, Off Again, On Again, Off Again ... 10: A 325 Page Shaggy Dog Story 9. Mundane Minutiae of Village Life 8. Her Name Was Rebecca. Becky. Bex. 7. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (AKA 13 Zs) 6. Match the Aberrant Behavior to the One-Dimensional Character 5. Twin Peaks Minus the Weird Stuff 4. Who is Responsible for This Year's Harve Top 13 Alternate Titles for 'Reservoir 13': 13. Stone Sisters Vs. Millennium Milestones: Discuss 12. The River Rushed Under the Packhorse Bridge, or At the Allotments 11. Cathy & Richard: On Again, Off Again, On Again, Off Again ... 10: A 325 Page Shaggy Dog Story 9. Mundane Minutiae of Village Life 8. Her Name Was Rebecca. Becky. Bex. 7. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (AKA 13 Zs) 6. Match the Aberrant Behavior to the One-Dimensional Character 5. Twin Peaks Minus the Weird Stuff 4. Who is Responsible for This Year's Harvest Day Display, Dammit?! 3. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Well-Dressing (... But Were Afraid to Ask) 2. Googling Fieldfares, Tortoiseshells and Springtails ... and the # 1 Alternate title for 'Reservoir 13': 1. 'Groundhog Day' - the Novel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”She could have walked high over the moor and stumbled into a flooded clough and sunk cold and deep in the wet peat before the dogs and thermal cameras came anywhere near, her skin tanned leather-brown and soft and her hair coiled neatly around her. She could have fallen anywhere and be lying there still.” The whole village spreads out across the moors looking for this 13 year old girl who simply vanished without a trace. They search everywhere, and for the next 13 years, everyone touched by her ”She could have walked high over the moor and stumbled into a flooded clough and sunk cold and deep in the wet peat before the dogs and thermal cameras came anywhere near, her skin tanned leather-brown and soft and her hair coiled neatly around her. She could have fallen anywhere and be lying there still.” The whole village spreads out across the moors looking for this 13 year old girl who simply vanished without a trace. They search everywhere, and for the next 13 years, everyone touched by her disappearance and even the generation that comes next will always see that as a demarcation line in the history of the town. ”She had been thirteen at the time of her disappearance. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans, and canvas shoes. She would be taller than five feet now, and her hair may have altered in both style and color.” Her name is Rebecca Shaw, Becky, Bex. Her family is vacationing in the village to celebrate the New Year. She never leaves, or if she does, she is somewhere not to be found. There are 13 chapters in this book, each representing a year in the life of the village after Becky’s disappearance. Life goes on. Sheep must be sheared, people begin relationships, cows must be milked, people cheat on their spouses, and stories must be written. Hanging over all of it is still the niggling concern of what happened to Rebecca Shaw. There are 13 reservoirs around the village which play a pivotal role in the search for the girl. They are also the meeting places for teenagers. It might be Reservoir 2 on Friday afternoon or maybe Reservoir 11 on Saturday evening. Memories are made on the shores of these reservoirs. There is a quarry which infuses the community with money. ”There was blasting again at the quarry, and when the first siren came everyone ignored the long rising wail. The second siren came a few minutes later, and anyone with washing on the line was quick to bring it inside. The third siren went and the birds flung themselves up from the trees in the quarry and scattered, and the air stilled for a moment before the deep thudding crack thundered out through the ground and was gone. At the first all-clear the birds settled in the trees. At the second the workers in the quarry went back. In the village the windows were kept closed for a few hours more until the dust had cleared. “ We meet the people over these 13 years. We see them age. In our mind Becky Shaw is aging, too. She would be 18 now, 23, and 26. What would she look like now? People continue to think of her. Is there some place we didn’t look? Teenagers make a game of it sometimes, searching for places where she might have fallen to the center of the earth. It might be a game, but really it is answers to a mystery they seek. They have their own troubles. The regular things we all have to deal with. The anxiety of missed chances. The pressure of expectations. ”He wanted to tell Lynsey and then he felt himself give way, hugely, the breath drawn out of him. It was like slipping into the reservoir in the middle of summer, the ice-cold water against his hot skin and all the sudden silence. He went way below the surface, into the dark, down to the silt and the stone foundations of the flooded villages, down to the unrelenting pull of the sluice.” Much has been said of the lyrical prose of Jon McGregor. I list this as a mystery, but the book is much more. It is a memoir of a village. He gives the simplest things weight with the exquisite structure of his prose. Reading this book is like sitting in an ancient church watching a decade plus three of life being played out in the movements of the people who sit in those pews, the ones who disappear, the ones who stay, and the ones who come back. As simple as things may seem on the surface, there are always concerns, yearnings, and even fears that are waiting to boil to the surface to put a hitch in a seemingly normal, stable life. 13 years, 13 chapters, 13 reservoirs, and a girl of 13 who leaves a mystery in her wake. ”Swiftly along the river and down the lane the adult bats flew in deft quietness and were gone by the time they were seen.” If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    Beautifully written, with an ever-present sense of the narrator being less of a person or a being, and more as the all-seeing village that overlooks all, and looks over all. It looks over the landscape that surrounds them, the village and the villagers, watching as life changes with the seasons and the passing of time. “Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl. I held her close, but she faded in the night Like a poem I meant to write. And the leaves that are green turn to brown, And they Beautifully written, with an ever-present sense of the narrator being less of a person or a being, and more as the all-seeing village that overlooks all, and looks over all. It looks over the landscape that surrounds them, the village and the villagers, watching as life changes with the seasons and the passing of time. “Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl. I held her close, but she faded in the night Like a poem I meant to write. And the leaves that are green turn to brown, And they wither with the wind, And they crumble in your hand.” -- Leaves That Are Green – sung by Simon and Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon As this begins, in this unnamed village in the Peak District of England, a family is on holiday with their thirteen year-old daughter, Rebecca, when she goes missing on New Year’s Eve. “The girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She had been looked for, everywhere. She had been looked for in the lambing sheds on Jackson’s farm, people moving through the thick stink of frightened ewes and climbing up into the lofts and squeezing behind the stacks of baled hay, and in the darkness outside great heaving lungfuls of fresh air were taken as people made their way across the field to the other barns. She had been looked for in the caves, and in the quarries, and in the reservoirs and all across the hills. It was no good. Dreams were had about her, still.” The villagers take time from their lives to search, but as time goes by, life slowly returns to the routines of life in this small village. Farmers have flocks that need tending, crops that need watching over. Soon months have gone by, an endless blur of days where life begins to return to normal, but it is a new normal. One touched by the story of the missing girl. Annual services in her memory are held, but as the days pass, and then the months, the seasons, and eventually the years pass, the rhythm of life. And the village overlooks this all, and sees the villagers as they slowly, eventually return to their lives, but they never truly forget – Rebecca, and her story. Rebecca’s become a part of them all. How the villagers cope, muddle though this event, and how it influences the years that follow is what this story is about. It is a lovely, rhythmic, soothing and spellbinding account of the impact it has on individuals over the thirteen plus years that follow, how it casts an essence of her presence, of her being present, brought about by her absence. An anticipation, but also an acceptance, she is part of them, now. She is a part of the village. How life manages to find a way, it just goes on, even when we think it can’t or it won’t. People fall in love, babies are born, crops are planted and crops are gathered, and yet somehow, she is ever-present. Hauntingly beautiful. “Hello, Hello, Hello, Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye, That's all there is. And the leaves that are green turned to brown, And they wither with the wind, And they crumble in your hand. -- Leaves That Are Green – sung by Simon and Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon I had added this to read when it was longlisted for the Book Prize, but it did not make the shortlist, which is a shame. It is, however, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize along with Sara Baume’s “A Line Made by Walking,” which I also loved, and four others: “H(A)PPY” by Nicola Barker; “Playing Possum” by Kevin Davey; “First Love” by Gwendoline Riley and “Phone” by Will Self.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    I first gave up on Reservoir 13 after the first chapter and I should have left it there. After I read a couple of praising reviews from friends that I trust and it got shortlisted for the Goldsmith prize I decided to give it another change. I struggled to read another chapter but I cannot continue. I guess it is because of the higher importance the writer gives to the structures than to the plot and characters. There are too many characters and too many lives to follow and I just don't care. The I first gave up on Reservoir 13 after the first chapter and I should have left it there. After I read a couple of praising reviews from friends that I trust and it got shortlisted for the Goldsmith prize I decided to give it another change. I struggled to read another chapter but I cannot continue. I guess it is because of the higher importance the writer gives to the structures than to the plot and characters. There are too many characters and too many lives to follow and I just don't care. The novel follows the way the disappearance of a 13 years old girl affects the regular life of a remote English village. There are 13 chapters, each covering an year in the life of the villagers. In a few pages we are enumerated what people did in 12 months. It is about the small life and it could have been an interesting story if there were less characters and more focus. I understood from other reviewers that later chapters are the same as the first ones so there is no point for me to continue.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I finished this yesterday mid-morning. I’m still thinking about it. I had a few discussions already. No paragraphs - at all!!!! Creative unique writing. It works - kinda lovely. However - I began to tire of the repetitiveness . (Great beginning). Then even color of clothes kept being repeated ... The repetitiveness-started to make me a little restless. Yet....life is repetitive..... I can get tired of cycles of how repetitive life is at times, too. ( so, sure, I thought about this valuable message) I finished this yesterday mid-morning. I’m still thinking about it. I had a few discussions already. No paragraphs - at all!!!! Creative unique writing. It works - kinda lovely. However - I began to tire of the repetitiveness . (Great beginning). Then even color of clothes kept being repeated ... The repetitiveness-started to make me a little restless. Yet....life is repetitive..... I can get tired of cycles of how repetitive life is at times, too. ( so, sure, I thought about this valuable message) I enjoy reading about reality...but maybe this book was a little ‘too’ real to call entertaining? Haha!! People in villages- and cities - all over the world - go on with their daily routines: feed animals ...get married.. break up... have drinks at the local pub... have Christmas parties... go to social dances... kids go to school.. and crimes go unsolved. I GET IT!!! What was missing for me - were memorable characters . Even in a village, where people come and go - are distracted with their own lives - have little real connection with their community. Wouldn’t there people a few ‘standout’ people? People who have a ‘story’ other’s want to hear? I missed getting inside the head of ‘characters’ and more ‘storytelling’. I missed more ‘relationship- dialogue- and bonding’. I missed feeling close and intimate with at least a couple of characters. With all the many characters that were in this book, none will be memorable to me. The ‘feeling’ of how life moves on through the seasons will be.... people are born - people die - people go missing! I do appreciate things about Reservoir 13. I liked it.... but I’m not jumping up and down over it either. Still glad I read it... if for the unique reading experience itself. But... it’s still not my general favorite flavor choice of tea. 3.5 ... rating up for extreme uniqueness... which ‘did’ work. Just let me fall a little deeper in love with a character or two please.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    This is my second book from this year's Man Booker longlist, and for me it already looks like a potential winner. I had been intending to wait for the paperback but decided to buy the hardback as soon as the longlist was announced, since it was the one I was most looking forward to, especially after the positive reviews. Update 29/8/17: Having read all but four of the longlist, this one is still my favourite. The rest of my shortlist would be Autumn, Home Fire, Days Without End, Solar Bones and This is my second book from this year's Man Booker longlist, and for me it already looks like a potential winner. I had been intending to wait for the paperback but decided to buy the hardback as soon as the longlist was announced, since it was the one I was most looking forward to, especially after the positive reviews. Update 29/8/17: Having read all but four of the longlist, this one is still my favourite. The rest of my shortlist would be Autumn, Home Fire, Days Without End, Solar Bones and Elmet. Of the remaining four, Lincoln in the Bardo is the most likely to change my mind. I am hugely disappointed that this missed the cut! McGregor's debut novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is still one of my favourites, and although his two subsequent novels (So Many Ways to Begin and Even the Dogs) were more difficult reads they still contained some luminous prose and demonstrated his versatility. This one is a story of a fictional village which is never named, but is a composite of various locations in the Peak District. Like Sarah Hall's Lake District, it consists of landscapes and features which are very familiar to those of us who know the area, but these are concentrated into a smaller space than in reality. The story takes place over a 13 year period, with each chapter following the events of a single year. The starting point is the disappearance of a thirteen year old girl who was staying in a holiday cottage in the village one New Year's Eve. She is never found, and the case is never solved, but instead we see its effects rippling as the omniscient narrator describes the lives of the villagers and the natural cycles, plants, wildlife, weather and other things that frame them - this gives the whole a rather satisfying structure in which some things recur but we see the characters develop and the character of the village itself subtly evolve. McGregor has an eye for detail and some of the landscape descriptions are very beautiful, he also allows breathing space for all of his characters, and writes equally convincingly about the young and the old, the male and the female. He is unsentimental about the nature of rural life but very sympathetic to the lives that make up the community. This is a quiet, mature and richly rewarding book, probably his best yet.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    I usually write my thoughts about books immediately on finishing, sometimes even while reading, but during the last two months I've had no time at all to reflect on the books I've read. Now that I have more leisure, I'm realizing how interesting an exercise it is to look back and ask myself whether it is worthwhile to try to recall the reactions I had to each particular book. What makes one book cry out to be written about and not another? So curious. Reservoir 13 is a book I'm certain I need to I usually write my thoughts about books immediately on finishing, sometimes even while reading, but during the last two months I've had no time at all to reflect on the books I've read. Now that I have more leisure, I'm realizing how interesting an exercise it is to look back and ask myself whether it is worthwhile to try to recall the reactions I had to each particular book. What makes one book cry out to be written about and not another? So curious. Reservoir 13 is a book I'm certain I need to write about - but not because it cries out in a loud voice. Not the way Lincoln in the Bardo does, for example - that one shrieks at me every day since I finished it. Reservoir 13 only whispers, in a low and gentle voice, but the voice is nevertheless insistent: you can't just shelve me without a backwards glance, it seems to say. You knew when you were reading, you still know, that I offered an unprecedented reading experience, that you will think about the way I was written for a long time to come. And that is the truth. Some of the things I think about: the way character names are dropped into the text, isolated names without any background information. McGregor tells us for example on page 1 about a helicopter searching the moors for a missing girl, and then says, ... Jackson's sheep had taken the fear and scattered through a broken gate... Who is Jackson, we wonder. But we don't have time to puzzle over who Jackson might be because more and more names and details get dropped into the text, and constantly throughout the entire thirteen chapters. These names and details are often juxtaposed with other names and details that have no apparent connection to them: ...They'd lost a ewe while he'd been gone. There was a meeting of the parish council. Brian Fletcher had difficulty keeping people to the agenda.. Who is Brian Fletch... I very quickly stopped doing what I usually do when I read novels: I stopped looking for particular significance in every new name and every new detail. The names became just a way to differentiate one person type from another in the way the names of the many birds, animals and plants mentioned in the book differentiated one type from another. The people became just another facet of the environment of the land around the reservoirs, and I began to read the words and sentences for themselves. They are all very fine, very worth reading. It is all so fine that I eventually came to view the book as a piece of music containing repeated notes: a white hooded top belonging to a missing thirteen year-old; herons watching water; recurring names; water seeping up through moorland; frogs croaking; recurring events in people's lives; a potter's wet clay; foaming white hawthorn; thirteen years of seasonal festivals; overflowing reservoirs; rushed and secretive sexual encounters; an ancient well; a drenched canvas shoe. The book is a symphony of wetness in thirteen movements. And I completely approved Jon McGregor's decision to give no particular significance to reservoir number 13. He made the right choices every step of the understated way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I am SO TORN about this book. I've been thinking about it for days. I think part of my issue is that how it is being sold to the reader - the disappearance of a girl, the fallout - is not really what the book is. It is true that there is a disappearance but it's a much slower book - about the town, the nature in the town, the seasons, all the little people and all their little lives, the cycles they go through, the long reaching effects of all of the tragedies, the girl included - the way secret I am SO TORN about this book. I've been thinking about it for days. I think part of my issue is that how it is being sold to the reader - the disappearance of a girl, the fallout - is not really what the book is. It is true that there is a disappearance but it's a much slower book - about the town, the nature in the town, the seasons, all the little people and all their little lives, the cycles they go through, the long reaching effects of all of the tragedies, the girl included - the way secrets last and others don't, who never leaves and who never stays, who is trusted and who can't be.... all these tiny things beautifully written and forming the quilt of this place. Except I think I'm supposed to find out what happens to this girl, so as a reader I kept changing how I read. If I read in a slow way with appreciation of the details, it is lovely and effective. If I look for answers I am left wanting. What am I supposed to want and how am I supposed to feel? Sometimes it was excruciating to circle back around, while I found myself appreciating the journey at the same time. I suspect the book will jump from Man Book long list to shortlist because the judges will like this juxtaposition. For me I'm still not convinced both work in the same book, but I still can't sort it all out. This is decidedly not the read for someone looking for a thrill. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with early access through Edelweiss.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Admiration rather than love is what I felt for this. Eventually, I found myself thinking it was too long and would have been more powerful as a novella. The narrative voice of Reservoir 13 is just about as dispassionate as a narrative voice can be. It's like we see what goes on in this English village from a drone hovering overhead whose recording apparatus finds the interactions of human beings no more significant than the weather and the activity of wildlife. It's almost Homeric in its unrelen Admiration rather than love is what I felt for this. Eventually, I found myself thinking it was too long and would have been more powerful as a novella. The narrative voice of Reservoir 13 is just about as dispassionate as a narrative voice can be. It's like we see what goes on in this English village from a drone hovering overhead whose recording apparatus finds the interactions of human beings no more significant than the weather and the activity of wildlife. It's almost Homeric in its unrelenting insistence on the bigger picture and the timeless realm of life. The novel might be called Life Goes On because that's what life does here. Nothing seems to matter much. It breaks many of the rules of the novel but reminds you why these rules are important. There's no main character; no one character is any more central than any of the others or even than the foxes, badgers, swallows and herons. Characters who offer little dramatic tension occupy as much space as characters whose story holds more interest. It's a democratic novel. Everyone in the village gets a voice, no matter how dreary or instantly forgettable that voice might be. It's also a novel that makes no attempt to resolve any of the conflicts it sets up. Everything just fizzles out, like the fireworks every New Year's Eve. Reservoir 13 is beautifully written and composed with admirable artistry but its message is rather bleak - the author seems to find the flight of a heron more beautiful than anything human beings are capable of.Give me the more tried and tested form of the novel any day. I want to feel forceful emotion when I read, not be made to feel how insignificant we all are and how little anything matters in the long run!

  15. 5 out of 5

    JimZ

    I liked this book although it was one of those books where, as I approached the end, I felt very creeped out…i.e., ‘who committed the terrible crime?’. I stressed “very” in “very creeped out” because throughout the whole novel I was creeped out. So, a word of warning — read this book during a period of time when you can accept being creeped out while reading it and while being away from it (your thoughts will return to the book). I have finished reading the book, and I don’t feel creeped out any I liked this book although it was one of those books where, as I approached the end, I felt very creeped out…i.e., ‘who committed the terrible crime?’. I stressed “very” in “very creeped out” because throughout the whole novel I was creeped out. So, a word of warning — read this book during a period of time when you can accept being creeped out while reading it and while being away from it (your thoughts will return to the book). I have finished reading the book, and I don’t feel creeped out anymore, so the effects are short-term (at least for me). If that is of any use to you. 🙃 I liked this book so much I might get a copy for myself — I read from a copy from my local library. But it was so good, that I might want my own copy so I can read again because there is a lot I missed no doubt. This is not one of those books where you can whiz right through it. I took 3 pages of notes and still got a bit lost at times. In fact, at the beginning I felt totally lost and was asking myself “Why all the accolades” on the back cover of the book. Plus, it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize of 2017. But eventually things started to click. I’m not sure how to describe the writing. It was told in the third person and was an account of different things that happened to many different people in an English village. And there were a number of characters because each chapter was a year. Year 1 was when the 13-year-old girl went missing up to 13 years later. What happened to the villagers, who died, who moved into the village, who moved out, and the status of the search for the missing girl. It was this style that one had to get used to (and I’m not saying that in a negative way…it was just different to me but it was this unique style of writing, perhaps something I have not come across [but see paragraph below] that contributed to my immense liking of the novel). The Times Literary Supplement likened this book to Ronald Blythe’s Akenfield (1969). I would say that is an apt comparison. Akenfield is one of my favorite books of all time, certainly in the top 50. It’s a collection of oral histories of people, derived from conversations between the author and the different people of the village (one-on-one interviews) who lived in the English village of Akenfield. Most people led a rough hardscrabble life and maybe they would see their lives as boring, but reading this collection I found their lives to be fascinating in part because they all had different ways of talking…just a wonderful book and I do believe it is uniformly liked by those who have read it. One comment I will make and maybe it’s a spoiler…(view spoiler)[ I was creeped out throughout the book because a number of people had bad things happen to them or they themselves were “bad.” A newcomer to the village came there to escape a husband who severely beat her…one of the villagers had a son who was mentally unbalanced and would hit/hurt her…one of the villagers was a paedophile…seems that more people got divorced and had affairs than those who were happily married. The village had a quarry in it in which some of the people had made their livelihoods but the quarry was dynamited on a daily basis to get the rock out, and people shut their windows when they heard the sirens alerting them to an upcoming blast because dust from the quarry would settle on everything including in the worker’s lungs. Like, geez….one step away from the seven circles of hell. 😦 (hide spoiler)] One final comment: I was really impressed by those entities/people that praised this book…and I recognized most of the authors, and these are not one-off writers…they’re excellent. Praise came from: • The Observer (UK) • Tessa Hadley • Paula Hawkins • Yiyun Li • Roddy Doyle • Eimear McBride • Evie Wyld • The Times Literary Supplement • The Irish Time • Colum McCann This was McGregor’s 4th novel and he has a collection of short stories. I found this such a unique and intriguing read I am going to seek out his other works. I was going to give this novel a solid 4 stars but in coming to the end of writing the review I can’t see why it should not merit a higher rating. So, 4.5 stars which makes it, rounded up, 5 stars. 😊 Reviews: • A very good review but reviewer gives away too much. Refrain from reading the review until after reading the book. Trust me, she liked it! https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... • Damn, another good review but gives away too much! Save review for after you are done… https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... • https://www.theliteraryreview.org/boo... • Reviewer (blogger) not as enthusiastic as I am: http://lonesomereader.com/blog/2017/8...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The Hook - There are many fine reviews of Reservoir 13 written by my GoodReads friends but it is this one by Kasa Cotugno that convince me I must read this book. Thank you. The Line(s) - ”On the reservoirs the water was whipped up into whitecaps. It was a decade now the girl had been missing, and although little talked about she was still in people’s thoughts. Her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer. She would be twenty-three yea The Hook - There are many fine reviews of Reservoir 13 written by my GoodReads friends but it is this one by Kasa Cotugno that convince me I must read this book. Thank you. The Line(s) - ”On the reservoirs the water was whipped up into whitecaps. It was a decade now the girl had been missing, and although little talked about she was still in people’s thoughts. Her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer. She would be twenty-three years old by now.“ The Sinker It is said that there are only so many plots in fiction but putting the pen in the right hand can take the ordinary and make it exquisite. How many times have you read a book about a missing child? This is one of those but oh, so different, the cream that rises to the top and sets it above all others. Clear your mind, settle in, prepare to read Reservoir 13 slowly. Savor the language. Savor the story. A teenage girl goes missing while on holiday with her parents. She is not found that first year or the next or even the next. Heart-achingly, Jon McGregor describes this ebb of time, through persons, seasons, and nature while exploring the paradox that time also stands still. E-galley generously provided by Catapult, Edelweiss and Author, Jon McGregor.

  17. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ + “She’s likely just hiding, people said. She’ll be down in a clough. Turned her ankle. She’ll be aiming to give her parents a fright. There was a lot of this. People just wanted to open their mouths and talk, and they didn’t much mind what came out.” Experiencing this novel was like flying slowly above a village at every change of season and watching the ebb and flow of people’s activities and relationships. A girl disappeared. Everyone has an opinion, and some are on the hunt. Parents keep a 5★ + “She’s likely just hiding, people said. She’ll be down in a clough. Turned her ankle. She’ll be aiming to give her parents a fright. There was a lot of this. People just wanted to open their mouths and talk, and they didn’t much mind what came out.” Experiencing this novel was like flying slowly above a village at every change of season and watching the ebb and flow of people’s activities and relationships. A girl disappeared. Everyone has an opinion, and some are on the hunt. Parents keep a closer eye on their children. This is not a quick, thrilling who-dunnit, nor is it a police procedural. It’s a more leisurely, yet intense, look at everyone involved,or not. She was the daughter of a family who was visiting, and her parents stayed for a long time as the search widened. The police repeat her description, almost as a mantra. “The missing girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She had been thirteen at the time of her disappearance. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans, and canvas shoes.” Meanwhile, the daily life of the village goes on, lambing continues, dairying continues, the potter pots, the well-dressers work on their designs, the various chores around maintaining the reservoirs are performed, the janitor struggles with “his” ageing school boiler, and people of all ages flirt or get sick or deal with difficult children, partners, and parents. People bake, scrub, wash, walk dogs, and gossip. Romance, jealousy, caring, tenderness, abuse. It’s all here. Relationships mingle and cross over each other, as they are inclined to do in a small community, while those people who return for holidays from work in cities or overseas are kept a little bit out of the loop. Some obviously feel they are too good for the village while some villagers resent that. It’s the changing of the seasons that is so spell-binding. Visually, the scenery reminds me of a set of four jigsaw puzzles I have of a country scene in each of the four seasons. The landscape the people, the town, and the community events remind me of the folk art of Grandma Moses, although this is a contemporary story, not horse and buggy days. But school concerts and church functions are still hubs of local activity. Image of a Grandma Moses painting of a country fair. On a personal note, I had never heard of well-dressing, so I looked it up. Fascinating. Shortly after the girl disappeared, the committee wondered whether or not to hold the annual event and decided, yes, but keep it low-key. This is well-dressing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_dr... The day after I finished reading the book, I watched an episode of Grand Designs (UK) about a house being built in the Peak District of Derbyshire, and there was an introductory feature on the well-dressing taking place in the village. I couldn’t believe it! Photo of many hands preparing a well-dressing in the Peak District. It is an important event where people meet, plan, decide, draw designs, cooperate (or not) and finally complete the structure. The preparation takes muscle and tractors to haul out the big boards, soak them in the river, drag them to the village, then dig and prepare the wet clay to cover the boards. The clay is spread on the boards so designs can be traced and petals pressed to create the picture. It is the kind of event that brings out the best and worst in people, from the old hands to the newcomers who want to join in. [In Australia, we used to love to see the district produce displays at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.] Photo of a dressed well from Chesterfield It’s also a recurring event, like Christmas and New Year’s, a time that people return “home” to visit. These returning people also feature in the stories. I say stories, because there are many of them. Some characters and stories are strongly related and intertwined so that the people become familiar to us, while others are more like nodding acquaintances. But all are interesting and comfortably (or uncomfortably) a part of the background. But it’s not just flyovers of the community and landscape. The author gets right into the minds, hearts, and skins of his people. This is the father of twins, who have fallen asleep on the couch with their mother as the family was watching a movie together. “He felt as though he were holding the three of them, holding this room, this house. They made him feel at once immensely capable and immensely not up to the task.” What parent hasn’t felt that overwhelming mix of contentment and fear? But, we are reminded “her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex”, and we learn some of the kids knew her. Her father is seen wandering the hills trying to find any evidence that the wide police search may have missed. The season changes. Many people meet on their allotments, garden areas allotted to each person or family to plant, build a shed, and/or enjoy as a yard. Photo of some allotments. “ The last days of August were heavy with heat and anything that had to move moved slow. At the allotments the beds were bursting with beans and courgettes, the plants sprawling over the pathways. The bees stumbled fatly between the flowers and the slugs gorged. The first lambs were ready to sell and Jackson’s boys were busy making selections and loading them into the trailer.” Everyone has an idea, an opinion about the girl, often shared in the Gladstone, the local pub. People report sightings. “In September a soft rain no more than mist hung in the trees along the valley floor. The river turned over beneath the packhorse bridge and carried scraps of light to the weir. The missing girl was seen walking around the shore of the reservoir, hopping from one breakwater rock to another with seemingly not a care in the world. This was Irene’s description.” We are there, in the chill and the dark, watching the leaves turn and the wildlife preparing for winter. “In the woods and by the river at night the bats were mating, feeding heavily to build up fat as the year began to slow. The clocks went back and the nights overtook the short days.” I must stop. I really need only have quoted what the publisher said of the author’s first book (which I haven’t read . . . yet). “Jon McGregor’s first novel brilliantly evokes the histories and lives of the people in the street to build up an unforgettable human panorama. Breathtakingly original, humane and moving, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is an astonishing debut.” This is every bit as astonishing, I’m sure. His works have been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and it’s only a matter of time before he moves his way up, I’m sure. This goes straight to the favourites list (or to the Pool Room, a destination many Aussies will recognise from The Castle). ============ P.S. Here's an interesting interview with the author, but be aware that there are spoilers.http://bookanista.com/jon-mcgregor/

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Finally recognised for an award. The Costa beats the Booker and Goldsmith this year as second most perceptive judging panel of the year. Re-read this book after its longlisting for the Booker. I can't add anything to my review below and it remained my firm favourite to win the Booker prize. I was therefore very disappointed that it did not even make the shortlist. However delighted now that it's innovative approach was recognised by the Goldsmith judges; so much so that with a small group of Good Finally recognised for an award. The Costa beats the Booker and Goldsmith this year as second most perceptive judging panel of the year. Re-read this book after its longlisting for the Booker. I can't add anything to my review below and it remained my firm favourite to win the Booker prize. I was therefore very disappointed that it did not even make the shortlist. However delighted now that it's innovative approach was recognised by the Goldsmith judges; so much so that with a small group of Goodreaders we interrupted the head judge's formal announcement of the shortlist with a small cheer - only to be disappointed when it did not win. ORIGINAL REVIEW In his studio Geoff Simmons washed his hands at the deep stone sink, the clear water dissolving the clay and running in a milky stream down the plughole and into the trap beneath. The wet pots no the tray were drying off and the kiln was just beginning to warm. In the hedge outside Mr. Wilson’s window a blackbird waited on its grassy bowl of blue-green eggs as the chicks chipped away at the shells. On the television there were pictures of floods across northern Europe; men in waterproofs pulling dinghies through the streets, collapsed bridges, drowned livestock. When the tea rooms opened for the season the footbridge hadn’t yet been rebuilt. The parish council wrote to the Culshaw Hall Estate as a matter of urgency, and the estate said it was the job of the National Park. The National Park disagreed. The river keeper said he could only do what he was asked. The first small tortoiseshells began mating, flying after each other above the nettled beds until the females settled out of sight and waited for the males to follow. The National Park ranger from the visitors centre spent an enjoyable hour watching them and making a record and when he got back to the office he filed it carefully away. At reservoir no.11, the maintenance team went along the crest of the dam, looking for cracks in the surface or sinkholes. There were molehills on the grass bank to deal with. Along the river at dusk, there were bats moving in number, coming down from their roosts to take the insects rising from the water. They moved in deft quietness and were gone by the time they were seen. The Spring Dance ended early when a fight between Liam Hooper and one of the boys from Cardwell spilled back in through the fire doors. It was soon broken up but by then there’d been damage and the Cardwell boys were asked to leave. Outside in the car park Will Jackson was again seen with Miss Carter from the school. The book opens with a short section as a 13 year old girl, on holiday with her family in a Peak District village, goes missing just before New Year, the villagers forming search parties to try and find her. Thereafter each section takes place over a year, opening with “At midnight when the year turned there were fireworks [or fire]", and then proceeding in lengthy paragraphs such as the one above, written from an omniscient narrator viewpoint and in a free indirect style, to relay the story of the next year (over a 13 year period). These paragraphs (as above) capture: The (limited) developments in the hunt for the missing girl and the girl’s parents interactions with the villagers; The lives of a wide range of characters from the village; village politics – particularly the workings of the parish council and the interactions with other authorities; The annual events of village life (fireworks at New Year, Mischief night, the annual pantomime, an annual cricket match against the next village, church services); the world of nature – both man influenced (farms, gardens, the National Park, the reservoirs) and the natural world (with animals and birds both as observed by the villages inhabitants but also their unobserved lives); Rural economic developments such as the closure of shops and businesses; Ageing of people (both children maturing to teenagers and middle aged people maturing into ill health); The breakdowns, establishment and evolution of relationships. Overall an outstanding book. The book captures brilliantly how the quotidian dramas play out against the rhythmic seasons of village life and the natural world, while time continues to pass incessantly. A book which is a pleasure to read and demands instant re-reading. The book is my favourite for the 2017 Booker Prize for which it has been deservedly longlisted.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    This book has deservedly been added to the long list for the Man Booker Prize 2017. ---- 'Reservoir 13' opens with the case of a missing persons; a young girl who had been holidaying with her parents in a quiet English village... But what follows isn't the expected crime thriller or whodunnit but a quiet look at the effects of this mysterious and tragic occurrence on village life over the following thirteen years. And it is utterly spellbinding. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves reading This book has deservedly been added to the long list for the Man Booker Prize 2017. ---- 'Reservoir 13' opens with the case of a missing persons; a young girl who had been holidaying with her parents in a quiet English village... But what follows isn't the expected crime thriller or whodunnit but a quiet look at the effects of this mysterious and tragic occurrence on village life over the following thirteen years. And it is utterly spellbinding. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves reading for the joy of language. Who likes to be lulled by what they're reading into an almost other worldly state of beauty. As this is a book of rhythms. Rhythms of language and rhythms of life. Each chapter takes place over the course of one year in the unnamed village. It follows the stories of the people living there. Of everyday life; of births, of deaths, of marriages. People move into the village, others move out... And while this lack of focus on a specific main character may seem that as a reader emotional attachment would somehow be lacking, this is very much not the case. Because it is the ordinariness of the characters that creates that bridge between reader and story. The prose may be almost ethereal in its beauty but the events of village life are very much grounded in reality. And it is this contrast that makes this book so enjoyable to read. To me, this is a book that is very much like a fine symphony. What may have been a discordant cast of characters perfectly combine to create magical harmonies. Rhythms are alternated in a manner comparable with syncopation so that different characters come to the fore as others become quieter. There are both quiet moments of calm and respite, and there are loud crescendos of lives changing and evolving. Even though the reader never knows the truth of what is in any of the characters' minds because we never are made privy to anyone's true thoughts and desires, it does not seem to matter. Because this is a book where characters' actions speak so much louder. And because of this focus, this is very much a book for people who love characters more than action-driven plots. This isn't a necessarily a story that provides answers. It asks more questions than it answers but for me, the simple beauty of this novel is in the great unknown of life. An excellently written and fulfilling read with a very strong rating of four and a half stars rounded up to five *A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins UK: 4th Estate, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Carter

    13 year Rebecca, or Bex, or Becky Shaw goes missing over New Years from a small village in the Peak District area. She had been staying in a rented holiday cottage with her parents over the New Year period. Search teams, emergency services and volunteers relentlessly look for her up the hills, rivers, cloughs, streams, valleys, moors and reservoirs, but to no avail. She just appears to have vanished. The media appears in full force, following the search teams, appeals, and the press conferences 13 year Rebecca, or Bex, or Becky Shaw goes missing over New Years from a small village in the Peak District area. She had been staying in a rented holiday cottage with her parents over the New Year period. Search teams, emergency services and volunteers relentlessly look for her up the hills, rivers, cloughs, streams, valleys, moors and reservoirs, but to no avail. She just appears to have vanished. The media appears in full force, following the search teams, appeals, and the press conferences the young girls parents hold. When none of these bear fruition, a reconstruction is staged. An appeal is raised for a driver of a red van. But again, nothing. She just appears to have vanished. This isn't a who-dunnit crime novel full of suspense and action. This is a quietly beautifully written novel, that draws you into the life of the village and its residents over a 14/15 year period. How the villagers react and cope with the girls disappearance, and the dark shadow looming over them of her unknown whereabouts. However, normal life slowly starts to resume and the rhythms of life take over. Relationships start and fail, people move away and new people arrive, businesses struggle, farmers go about their business, secrets are uncovered, the wildlife hibernates and reawakens as the seasons change and roll around - life goes on. The book isn't told from a specific characters perspective. It is more an "all seeing eye / omnipotent" narrative - an ensemble of different characters - of watching how a small village slowly starts getting back into life's usual routines and cycles, as the years pass and the seasons and landscapes ebb and flow. If you enjoy fast paced books filled with action, this probably won't be for you. It is a gently ebbing book, filled with the poignancy of the cycles of life and death. It is a book to savour; to read slowly and absorb the beautiful descriptions of nature. The writing is haunting and the lives of the residents, whom we come to feel we know, will linger with you long after you finish reading the book. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK & 4th Estate for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    I didn't really enjoy this one, sadly. I thought the novel's structure—13 chapters, each representing a year in the life of a village after the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl—was interesting but had me struggling through the book. It was repetitive by nature and while some people might enjoy that I found it to be tedious and was glad to be done by the end. The writing about nature and the village's surroundings were beautifully mixed into the story, but I didn't care enough about the charac I didn't really enjoy this one, sadly. I thought the novel's structure—13 chapters, each representing a year in the life of a village after the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl—was interesting but had me struggling through the book. It was repetitive by nature and while some people might enjoy that I found it to be tedious and was glad to be done by the end. The writing about nature and the village's surroundings were beautifully mixed into the story, but I didn't care enough about the characters to get fully invested. There's a lot going on in this story and I think if it had been narrowed down to 3-4 characters instead of the huge ensemble I would've been able to follow it more easily and been more interested in their stories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mercedes

    3.5 stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Winner of the Costa Book Award 2017 *sigh* I have thought long and hard about why I dislike this text, especially because so many people whose opinion I value just loved it, and I could even find all the points they have raised in order to explain why they liked this novel so much in the text, but their well-made arguments did not change the fact that this book did almost nothing for me. So here are some attempts to explain why I found myself so underwhelmed: The structure of the book dominates (i Winner of the Costa Book Award 2017 *sigh* I have thought long and hard about why I dislike this text, especially because so many people whose opinion I value just loved it, and I could even find all the points they have raised in order to explain why they liked this novel so much in the text, but their well-made arguments did not change the fact that this book did almost nothing for me. So here are some attempts to explain why I found myself so underwhelmed: The structure of the book dominates (if not to say suffocates) the story. McGregor portrays life in an English village over the course of 13 years, starting with the year in which 13-year-old Rebecca disappears. Animals, plants, villagers, festivities that mark the succession of every year – everything that happens flows in a steady narrative stream, as if life was a calm steady river, as if people, animals and plants exist in some common contemplative space that is shaped by natural forces, where even crime, death, and love lost are nothing more than parts of the course of life…yeah, I have a couple of questions regarding this concept: How does this mirror human experience? If we do not talk about how it feels and what it means to be human, if we do not acknowledge all the little tragedies as such – what’s the point in writing at all, what’s the merit of a story? I am interested in the characters the book has to offer, I think all their trials and tribulations are worth exploring, especially because they are so common – but this attitude turns out to be a problem here, because the villagers are only portrayed in a rather superficial way, crammed in short episodes, with zero direct dialogue that might disturb the steady pace of the narrative. But I like my narratives with changing paces, with differing moods, and full of expression. This runs against what McGregor wants to do (and, admittedly, also achieves to do), but the more the author sticks to his narrative and structural concept of composed calm, the more agitated I get. “Reservoir 13” has often been compared to Solar Bones, and there are some similarities. But in my opinion, McCormack highlights the dignity, the societal contributions, and the epic elements in the life of a so-called average person, while McGregor evens out everything: The average is made more average, and life is made to appear flat. I see that McGregor’s approach can be interpreted as humble or soothing, as in “we are all part of a greater scheme”, and yes, we are, but the human experience is that all those troubles feel existential to us, and they are what makes up our lives: Jackson’s illness is tragic, Su’s trouble with her twins and her job are worth discussing, and what the hell is going on between Rebecca’s parents? I want to know, because it matters! So unfortunately, I felt more intellectually stimulated and emotionally engrossed watching Conor McGregor’s bout with Floyd Mayweather than reading Jon McGregor’s welterweight of a book – it doesn’t qualify as light reading, but for my taste, it does definitely lack some muscle.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I am having a hard time with the star rating here, because some facets of this book were brilliant, but it was also very repetitive and a tad bit tedious because of that. I had been warned from other reviews that this was not a traditional mystery, so that was okay, no expectations. I also knew it was a quiet kind of book, with very little plot, but that was okay, I like that kind of read. Also a bit experimental, 13 chapters, each representing a year in the life of a village after the disappear I am having a hard time with the star rating here, because some facets of this book were brilliant, but it was also very repetitive and a tad bit tedious because of that. I had been warned from other reviews that this was not a traditional mystery, so that was okay, no expectations. I also knew it was a quiet kind of book, with very little plot, but that was okay, I like that kind of read. Also a bit experimental, 13 chapters, each representing a year in the life of a village after the disappearance of a 13 year old girl. The theme here was easy: Life Goes On. Things happen, there are births and deaths, kids grow up, people get old and sick, animals have to be cared for, the natural world is a constant, seasons come and go. What is tragedy for one is a blip on someone else's radar. Life goes on. That is all made clear to us in these pages, and I came to care about these villagers and what happened to them. However, the catch here for me was the style of the narrative. There were no paragraph breaks in these chapters of 20-30 pages. No real dialogue, except what we were told was said, as though each chapter was one of those Christmas letters where we are caught up on the events of the year as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, I liked being told a snippet of information and forming my own conclusion. There was also a bit of a fairy tale aspect to the story, as though this village was hidden away, and you entered through the portals of these pages. So I am conflicted. This is not 5 stars, because of the tedium, not 3 stars, because I did enjoy the book a lot and admired what the author was trying to do. I will go with 4 stars because I will be thinking about this for a while, and I will remember these characters.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    WINNER OF THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD, 2017. A Pennine Almanac They gathered at the car park in the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do. It was cold and there was little conversation. There were question that weren't being asked. The missing girl's name was Rebecca Shaw. When last seen she'd been wearing a white hooded top. A mist hung low across the moor and the ground was frozen hard. They were given instructions and then they moved off, their boots crunching on the stiffened ground and WINNER OF THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD, 2017. A Pennine Almanac They gathered at the car park in the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do. It was cold and there was little conversation. There were question that weren't being asked. The missing girl's name was Rebecca Shaw. When last seen she'd been wearing a white hooded top. A mist hung low across the moor and the ground was frozen hard. They were given instructions and then they moved off, their boots crunching on the stiffened ground and their tracks fading behind them as the heather sprang back into shape. […]Opening sentences. A missing teenager, the possibilities on everybody's mind. The dangers of the terrain and weather, rocky hillsides, the reservoirs and swollen river, the disused mines. And human dangers, not articulated as yet. In clean declarative sentences with hardly even a comma, Jon McGregor describes the search, which goes into a second day and then a third: […] The divers were going through the river again. A group of journalists waited for the shot, standing behind a cordon by the packhorse bridge, cameras aimed at the empty stretch of water, the breath clouding over their heads. In the lower field two of Jackson's boys were kneeling over a fallen ewe. There was a racket of camera shutters as the first diver appeared, the wetsuited head sleek and slow through the water. A second diver came around the bend, and a third. They took turns ducking through the arch on the bridge and then they were out of sight. The camera crews jerked their cameras from their tripods and began folding everything away. One of the Jackson boys bucked a quad bike across the field and told the journalists to move. The river ran empty and quick. The cement works was shut down to allow for a search. In a week the first snowdrops emerged along the verges past the cricket ground, which it seemed winter had yet a way to go. At the school, in the staff room the teachers kept their coats on and waited. Everything that might be said seemed like the wrong thing to say. […]This comes from the middle of only the second long paragraph, on the fourth page of text, but two things have changed already: it mentions names, and it includes happenings that have nothing to do with the girl's disappearance. That nature note about the snowdrops made me sit up; it seemed irrelevant, even callous. But that is McGregor's point; the life of the village must go on; the sheep must be tended on a daily basis, even when something as terrible as a missing girl disrupts the routine. And nature too has its cycles, totally unaware of human tragedies. John Wood's review of McGregor's novel in the New Yorker compared it to an almanac, and that's in part what it is: a meticulous account of the natural history of a small English village, the cycle of seasons repeated over the course of thirteen years, one chapter for each, one paragraph for each month. McGregor's writing is extraordinary, his sensitivity to sight, scent, and sound, the breadth and detail of his vision: […] There was talk. In the meadows Thompson's men worked the baler along the lines of cut grass, the thick sward gathered up and spun into dense bales. Every few hundred yards the tractor paused and there was a tumbling inside the machine and a neatly wrapped bale rolled softly from the hatch onto the field. The wood pigeons laid eggs in their nests in the beech wood and in the horse chestnut by the cricket ground. They took turns sitting on the eggs, but there were still plenty stolen by magpies and crows. On the bank above the abandoned lead pits the badgers started coming out of their sett before dark. The sows with cubs were looking for food and the boars were looking for mates. There were conflicts. […]I put ellipses before and after these passages to show that they are all part of much longer paragraphs. I had a hard time finding an extended passage of nature writing, because most often McGregor interleaves a line or two about the natural world with passing remarks about the people that live in it; the following passage is more typical: […] White campion thronged the verges along the road towards town, their neat flowers wrinkling as the seed-heads began to swell. In the beech wood the young foxes were ready to move on. It was Martin's turn to put together the Harvest Festival display at the church, and despite regular promises not to let anyone down he disappeared at the last moment. Irene and Winnie stepped in. The river turned over beneath the packhorse bridge and ran steady to the millpond weir. Lynsey Smith came home from Leeds and moved back in with her parents. […]Such brief references to people do make the novel a challenge to read. On page 7 alone, 13 new names are introduced, mainly children and teachers in the village school. The cast will continue to build over the next dozen pages, to a total of around 60, all in brief references of seldom more than a sentence or two at a time. Again, I have to demonstrate: […] Lynsey Smith said it was a safe bet Ms. Bowman would ask if they needed to chat. She made finger-quotes around the word chat. Deepak said at least it would be a way of getting out of French. Sophie looked away, and saw Andrew waiting at the other bus stop with Irene, his mother. He was the same age as they were but he went to a special school. Their bus pulled up and James warned Liam not to make up any bullshit about Beck Shaw. It snowed and the snow settled thickly. […]Copying this out now, it seems very different from when I first read it. I now feel I know Lynsey, Sophie, Andrew, Irene, and James at least, because I have followed what became of them. But at the time, they were just so many names. McGregor doesn't introduce them, but refers to them as casually as though you already know them, which of course you don't. I wondered if I should be keeping notes. Fortunately, having seen McGregor use a very similar technique (though in a an urban context) in his first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, I knew to trust him. But it is hard to put your normal character-based expectations on hold. Indeed, it is wrong to speak of "characters" at all. McGregor does not focus on one or two figures to propel his plot. Instead, he takes us into the midst of an ecosystem, in which no one person is more important than any other, and the lives of human beings is merely one of many cycles, along with the plants, and the animals, and the weather. His combination of human and natural stories reminded me of Jim Crace's Being Dead, one of the most extraordinary novels I have ever read, and that put me at ease. ====== But there is a difference. Crace, for all his detail, is describing an imagined world. McGregor depicts a real one. I had assumed originally that the village was somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales, Wuthering Heights country. But repeated references to something called "well dressing" eventually made me look it up, and suddenly everything came into focus. Well dressing, apparently, is the custom of decorating wells, springs, and other water sources with pictorial boards covered with moist clay with flower petals and other natural materials pressed into it to make the design. And it is practiced almost exclusively by certain villages in the Derbyshire Peak District. Derbyshire well-dressing designs Apart from one happy holiday week when I was a child, and a couple of outings with the Cambridge Climbing Club, I do not know the Peak District as well I might. The word "peak" is a misnomer; this is rocky moorland which barely reaches 2,000 feet above sea level, part of the Pennine chain that makes the backbone of England. But it is superb hiking country, rugged and challenging, and by the same token potentially dangerous in bad weather. Looking up photos of the area soon made me feel at home in the landscape of McGregor's novel. I felt them under my feet, the paths leading up the hillside from the valley below. I knew the sheep sheltering in the lee of a drystone wall. On the top, I breathed the bracing air as I looked down over the many reservoirs to the agricultural land below. And I now understood several of the references that had puzzled me before, such as the flagstones laid on the fragile moorland to create the hiking paths, or the ancient packhorse bridges, one horse-width wide, that are also a feature of the area. Views in the Peak District Holme Bridge at Bakewell, Derbyshire It is about scale and completeness and continuity. My sense of scale finally made my give in and stop sweating the small stuff. I became more aware of McGregor's music, his use of repetitions, symphonic movements shaped by the seasons. And feeling at home in the landscape gradually made me feel at home with the people too. No, I couldn't always place everyone, and I can't say that I had my heart in my mouth wondering how anyone's particular story would turn out. But I did begin to get to know many of them, much as one gets to know one's neighbors and is genuinely interested to hear that their daughter is getting married. McGregor plays into this by giving longer sections to some people as the book nears its end. It is not about bringing closure to a particular story—McGregor is not big on closure—but making you feel that you are no longer a stranger in the village, but connected, at one with its rhythms, one of them. ====== My Top Ten list this year is selected from a smaller than usual pool. I really only started reading again in May, and even then deliberately kept new books to under 50% of my total. In compiling the list, I also did not exactly follow my original star ratings, but rather the takeaway value after time has passed. In particular, there are two books, Lincoln in the Bardo and Go, Went, Gone) to which I gave only 4 stars, but which I recognize as important books, with more staying power than many that I enjoyed more at the time, but have since forgotten. For some reason, three of the ten books (Forest Dark, A Horse Walks into a Bar, and Three Floors Up) are by Jewish authors, set in Israel. To those, I would add a fourth: Judas by Amos Oz, read at the same time and of similar quality, but actually published at the end of 2016. The ten titles below are in descending order (i.e. with The Essex Serpent being my favorite). The links are to my reviews: 1. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry 2. Autumn by Ali Smith 3. Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss 4. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne 5. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor 6. A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman 7. Exit West by Moshin Hamid 8. Three Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo 9. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 10. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck And half that number again that didn't quite make it, in alphabetical order by authors: 11. Souvenirs dormants by Patrick Modiano 12. All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan 13. Improvement by Joan Silber 14. Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout 15. Rose & Poe by Jack Todd

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Longlisted for the Booker, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths, now winner of the Costa Prize - indisputably the book of 2017 .... In April he first swallows were seen, swooping low over the pastures in the early morning and taking the insects which rose with the dew. And still the sound of a helicopter clattering by was never just the sound of a helicopter but everything that sound had once meant. Update: The book that should have won the Booker but was inexplicably dropped at shortlist stage - but no Longlisted for the Booker, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths, now winner of the Costa Prize - indisputably the book of 2017 .... In April he first swallows were seen, swooping low over the pastures in the early morning and taking the insects which rose with the dew. And still the sound of a helicopter clattering by was never just the sound of a helicopter but everything that sound had once meant. Update: The book that should have won the Booker but was inexplicably dropped at shortlist stage - but now shortlisted for a much better prize, the Goldsmiths. Reservoir 13 is set in a village in the Peak District. As the novel opens, just before New Year, a 13 year-old girl, holidaying in the village with her parents in a barn conversion, is reported missing, and the police organise the villagers into a search party: They gathered in the car park at the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do. It was cold and there was little conversation. There were questions that weren’t being asked. The missing girl’s name was Rebecca Shaw. When last seen she’d been wearing a white hooded top. A mist hung low across the moor and the ground was frozen hard. They were given instructions and then they moved off, their boots crunching on the stiffened ground and their tracks fading behind them as the Heather sprang back into shape. She was five feet tall, with dark-blonde hair. She had been missing for hours. They kept their eyes down and they didn't speak and they wondered what they might find. The only sounds were footsteps and dogs barking along the road and faintly a helicopter from the reservoirs. The novel then unfolds over 13 chapters, one for each of the 13 numbered reservoirs in the surrounding area, each chapter set over a year in the life of the village. The set-up would suggest a crime novel, but that isn't McGregor's intention at all. There are, admittedly, seeming breakthroughs (see the excerpt below), revelations (characters who know more of the girl's movements and motivations than they told the police), tantalising hints (most notably when a dog being walked by one character, Cathy Harris, finds an item of clothing which the reader but not Cathy recognises as possibly worn by the girl) and the odd ominous note (lots of mentions of reservoirs, quarry pits and a rather odd loner of a school caretaker - one could imagine spooky background music in a film version), but actually - no spoiler alert needed as there is nothing to spoil - we end the novel none the wiser than when we started it. Instead McGregor uses this set-up to create a wonderful collage of a rural community. The passing of the seasons in each year is marked by the annually recurring rituals of village life - fireworks at New Year, the Spring Dance for charity, Well-Dressing at midsummer, the annual cricket game with the neighbouring village which is seldom won, Harvest Festival, Mischief Night which gradually morphs into a more American-influenced halloween, and the Pantomime. But McGregor gives equal attention to the rhythms of the natural world - crops, flowers and trees, and wildlife - foxes, badgers, swallows and herons. A breakdown truck came slowly down the narrow street with a red LDV Pilot van hoisted on the back and a police car following. The van was wrapped in clear plastic. Martin wiped his hands on his apron and stepped outside to watch it pass. Gordon came out with him and lit a cigarette. Martin nodded. That changes things, he said. Fucking breakthrough is that, Gordon said. The swallows returned in numbers, and could be seen flying in and out of the open doors at the lambing shed at the Jacksons' and the cowsheds over at Thompson's, and the outbuildings up at the Hunter's land. The well-dressing committee had a difference of opinion about whether to dress the boards at all this year. Under the circumstances. There’d never been a year without a well dressing that anyone could remember. But there’d never been a year like this. In the end it was agreed to make the dressing but to keep the event low-key. There were sightings of the girl. She was seen by Irene, first, on the footbridge by the tea rooms, walking across to the other side. Quite alone she was, Irene said. Her young face turned half away and she wouldn’t look me in the eye. Gone before I went to her and I couldn’t see which way she went. I knew it was her. The police were told, and they went searching but they found nothing. There were lots of young families in the area that day, a police spokesperson said. But I know it was her, Irene said. There was rain and the river was high and the hawthorn by the lower meadows came out foaming white. The cow parsley was thick along the footpaths and the shade deepened under the trees. Stock was moved higher up the hills and the tea rooms by the millpond opened for the year. In the shed Thompson’s men were working on the baler, making sure they knew when the time came for the cut. The grass was high but the weather had been low for days. The rain on the roof was loud and steady. The reservoirs filled. The outside world by contrast features little. We see simply background scenes glimpsed on the TV screens of natural and man-made disaster - floods, earthquakes, fires, explosions - but the only time the villagers take a particular interest (one keen fund-raiser for worthy causes aside) is when there is a similar missing-girl cases in another area. The novel is rather conveniently set in the years between two key political events - the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 has passed and the 2016 Brexit vote is yet to come - and the only political marker is a passing mention of the Bedroom Tax. McGregor introduces us gradually to a large cast of characters in the village - some rate a passing mention, others we come to know well - and their own personal dramas and interactions. [One minor criticism, in passing, would be the lack of much by way of inter-family alliances and rivalries of a type that often arise in small communities.] Perhaps my favourite character was Gordon Jackson, one of 5 sons of Jackson the sheep farmer, who has the self-assumed role of village lothario - gradually and deliberately seducing many of the village women, married, widowed, divorced, young or old, most notably a women and a decade later her daughter - but actually in search himself of a relationship and always disappointed at how brief each affair proves: He was never forward. He waited for situations to arise. He'd been waiting for Susanna for years. A quick conversation, a joke, an offer of help. Eyes. But he never said anything. That wasn't him. He was careful in a way he didn't need to think about. He never made a suggestion, never put himself in a position where there could be a refusal. It was the refusals that got talked about, had always been his sense. The ones who went through with it had more of an interest in being discreet. He only had to steer the situation towards a possibility until the possible became likely and the likely a done thing. A good sheepdog never needs to bark was how he thought about it. He looked at Susanna now. It had taken time but she seemed interested at last. She was looking out of the window and she had that thoughtful face. He wanted to lean over and kiss her neck but he held back. She was a fine looking women and he'd been watching. She'd been on her own a long time and he'd found himself thinking of breakfasts in her kitchen, nights in front of the TV. But while absorbed in their own personal dramas, the village can never fully escape what happened 13 years ago. We follow a group of local teenagers of the same age as the missing girl as they grow up and go to University, only to find that all their acquaintances there immediately want to ask about the drama. The quote that opened my review comes from the last chapter - almost 12.5 years after the girl went missing. In April he first swallows were seen, swooping low over the pastures in the early morning and taking the insects which rose with the dew. And still the sound of a helicopter clattering by was never just the sound of a helicopter but everything that sound had once meant. A wonderful novel - modest in its scope but all the more powerful for it - and one I very much hope wins the 2017 Booker as it is a welcome anecdote to the rather overblown self-satisfied novels that have won in recent years. As McGregor himself has said, he's “allergic to trying to make points in fiction.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. I’m not sure I can explain it or do a review that does it justice, but I’ll try. “Reservoir 13” starts with a search for a missing thirteen year old girl named Rebecca Shaw. Rebecca has gone missing in a rural English village. She and her parents were visiting and staying in a barn conversion. The three of them went for a walk on a cold winter’s day and Rebecca lagged behind – and then disappeared. The book has thirteen chapters and aside f I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. I’m not sure I can explain it or do a review that does it justice, but I’ll try. “Reservoir 13” starts with a search for a missing thirteen year old girl named Rebecca Shaw. Rebecca has gone missing in a rural English village. She and her parents were visiting and staying in a barn conversion. The three of them went for a walk on a cold winter’s day and Rebecca lagged behind – and then disappeared. The book has thirteen chapters and aside from the first chapter, all subsequent chapters start, “At midnight when the year turned….” Each chapter contains the events of one year’s time following Rebecca’s disappearance. Here’s the thing – this book is not plot driven OR character driven. It’s a meditation on the cycle of life – on the turning of the seasons, life and death, flora and fauna, love and loss. McGregor gives everything equal weight and attention, whether it be the actions of humans, animals, insects, trees or flowers. His writing is simple and eloquent, the pace gentle and rhythmic. There is a flow to his words and to the lives in the stories. I have seen some reviews complaining that McGregor doesn’t seem to value the human characters’ stories over the stories of nature. I think that is 100% the POINT of this work. We humans, and all of our problems and all of our dramas, are just threads in the magnificent tapestry of life. We matter no more or less than the natural world that surrounds us. Life moves on, always moves forward, inexorably cycling through the seasons. The disappearance of a child, an event so sharp and acute in the moment, fades in urgency as the cycle of life moves on. It’s just a small pull in the tapestry. The book is not as “heavy” as I’ve probably made it sound. I thought this was lovely; one of the highlights of the reading year for me. I loved it – I didn’t find it boring or dull and I am in awe of how McGregor constructed his quiet and contemplative novel. I can’t think of any other book to compare this to and I don’t know WHO to recommend this to. There is no “conclusion” to Rebecca’s story, just like there is no conclusion to the constant unfolding of the seasons. If you need resolution and full stop endings, better stay away from this one. 5 full brilliant stars from me. One of my very favorites from the 2017 Man Booker longlist.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    One of my favourite books this year. The novel is set in a village in Derbyshire, the Peak District (the well dressing gives that away). It starts at New Year in the early 2000s with the disappearance of a thirteen year old girl, staying in a holiday rental with her family. The village is a tourist spot close to the moors and the title refers to a series of reservoirs in the hills above and beyond the town. The narrative consists of thirteen chapters, each of them covers a year, the chapters bei One of my favourite books this year. The novel is set in a village in Derbyshire, the Peak District (the well dressing gives that away). It starts at New Year in the early 2000s with the disappearance of a thirteen year old girl, staying in a holiday rental with her family. The village is a tourist spot close to the moors and the title refers to a series of reservoirs in the hills above and beyond the town. The narrative consists of thirteen chapters, each of them covers a year, the chapters being split into smaller passages covering each month or so. There are snippets from the lives of the villagers, all ages and statuses and the reader gradually gets to know each of them. As a plot structure it is interesting and here’s how McGregor explains it: “As a writer, any time something dramatic happens, your instinct is to spend a number of pages on that incident. But when I was writing, say, February, I kept finding, This couple is going to get married, this couple is going to split up, this boy has fallen off a rock, but I’ve only got two pages to tell those stories. I had to leave it, and wait a year, and see what they looked like a year later. And that became a really interesting way of looking at narrative. These things in our lives sometimes take years to play out, and I hadn’t really thought about that before. I tricked myself into seeing it.” Much of the first year revolves around the disappearance of the girl, inevitably. Over time the reader becomes more focussed on the lives and loves of the villagers. Over the years you see the teenagers in the village grow up, go to university and return again. Some die, some move in, others move on. There are gettings together and breakings up, minor crime and vandalism, an arrest for child pornography, the closing and opening of shops. Some events are set and the year revolves around them; the New Year fireworks, the annual cricket match with a nearby village, the well dressing and so on. All aspects of life are cleverly run together and humour and tragedy sit easily side by side. As the New York Times review says, McGregor mixes “the mundane and the ecstatic”. You also get a strong sense of transition and change: “There were cowslips under the hedges and beside the road, offering handfuls of yellow flowers to the longer days.” It is very much a novel of voices and in that respect it reminded me a little of The Waves by Virginia Woolf. The voices can also be collective and the village itself seems to have a voice at times, for example when the local butcher and his wife break up: “There was talk she was planning on opening a shop of her own. Organics. They went for that type of thing in Harefield. It was noticed that Martin was often away from the house. He was in the Gladstone or he was walking through the village, down the lane past Fletcher’s orchard to the packhorse bridge.” This isn’t a neat novel which ties up all the loose ends, lives are left mid-stream at the end; McGregor does not seem to feel the need to provide that most modern of things, closure. There is a strong sense of the natural world, the seasons and rhythms of nature: “As the dusk deepened over the badger sett at the far end of the woods, a rag-eared boar called out a sow … The woods were thick with the stink of wild garlic and the leaves gleamed darkly along the paths. Jackson’s boys went out to the fields and checked the sheep.” McGregor is also quite at ease employing a little local language and dialect: “Jackson’s sheep had taken the fear and scattered through a broken gate, and he’d been up all hours bringing them back.” There is a great sense of rhythm about this book and I think in its own way it’s a masterpiece (according to the Irish Times, a “humane and tender masterpiece”). There may be those who are irritated by the structure, but for me it carries the book along and McGregor makes the narrative stretch and shift its focus: “There was a fight in the Gladstone, and talk it had something to do with Facebook. On the television there were pictures of explosions, fires, collapses, collisions. Broad beans started coming off the allotments by the carrier-bagful, and were shucked into saucepans from their softly-lined pods. The gentle cushioning of the broad-bean pod was one of nature’s senseless excesses. The work was a tedious delight. In his studio Geoff Simmonds took each newly fired pot from the tray and smashed it against the floor. He worked at a methodical pace. The rhythm was soothing.” The novel starts with a horrifying event, but moves on and documents the life and lives of the villagers and pulls the reader away from the expected focus of the novel (without diminishing the horror) and says look over here at what is happening. Life goes on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    McGregor's remarkable achievement in this novel long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize is the flammable combination of his intimacy and his distance. He is daring in never mentioning Reservoir 13 again after naming his novel after it and insinuating, merely by its prominence, that it had something to do with the disappearance of Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex, the 13-year-old girl who disappeared one year and was never accounted for, though she’d been looked for and not forgotten for the thirteen McGregor's remarkable achievement in this novel long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize is the flammable combination of his intimacy and his distance. He is daring in never mentioning Reservoir 13 again after naming his novel after it and insinuating, merely by its prominence, that it had something to do with the disappearance of Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex, the 13-year-old girl who disappeared one year and was never accounted for, though she’d been looked for and not forgotten for the thirteen years of this novel. The book is a slow burn, like fire in peat, smoke hinting at fire somewhere, though pinpointing the source is difficult. McGregor is an impassive observer with no dog in any fight, recognizing the churn of seasons and families and friends, and recording how lovers grew apart and found new lovers, or did not, or how difficult it is to keep an allotment well-weeded and producing. Except that the story was his to create and so he must have had some reason for choosing the threads as they crossed, their color and texture and placement. In the end, this diet of village life fills one with surprise, curiosity, delight, and despair. Wondering, once finished, how this book was received by critics, I came upon a review by Maureen Corrigan in The Washington Post in which she says “Those bland details of everyday life fill McGregor’s mammoth paragraphs like foam insulation being sprayed into walls.”That made me laugh. She was the one to point out that the girl was thirteen when she went missing, and the time recorded in this novel is thirteen years. I would have thought it was much longer. It felt longer. I started noticing the time I spent reading, and treated myself to an occasional skim, just to see if I could uncover his mystery before I succumbed to numbing despair. I admire McGregor's prose immensely and like his idea. It was a risky thing, this novel. I am pleased his daring and initiative was recognized by the Man Booker Prize committee.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    I read this in two sittings. I just need a bit of time to think on it before I review... and I might make it a 5/5. Maybe. I need to think.

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