Reservoir logs

29 07 2017

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Rightly long listed for the Man Booker prize this year, this is a terrific book and would be a worthy winner.

 

At its heart this is a mystery in which a teenage girl goes missing in the countryside, sparking a major search and media focus on a quiet village. Everyone joins in the hunt for a while, but life has to carry on and gradually things seem to get back to normal. However, nothing can ever be the same again. Year in, year out, everyone goes about their business, but the disappearance seems to infect every part of village and country life. It’s a beautifully written, deceptively transparent and perfectly paced novel. This is the fourth novel from McGregor, professor of creative writing at the University of Nottingham, and it is undoubtedly his best. Pastoral and poetic, powerful and deep, it is a truly outstanding work and certainly the best novel I’ve read this year.

One of the few copies of the book in which the author included a line from ‘On the Ball City’

 

NB This review previously appeared in THE’s ‘What are you reading?’

 

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Lucky 13 – Anticipatory Book Review

30 01 2017

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

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Early Amazon Reviews are mixed. I don’t know how people got hold of the book (not out until April) but they don’t seem to have been very well chosen given the range of comments. I tried to add my review but prevented from doing so on a technicality so have posted here.

I’ve had only limited access to this novel. Just the title in fact. I invited the author to furnish me with a copy for review purposes but he suggested I take it one step at a time and just stick with reviewing the title.

There are lots of reservoirs on Amazon: hydration water bladders, ion reservoirs, Reservoir Dogs, a liquid cooling system reservoir and even a Triumph reservoir sock. there are also quite a few albums called this, a number of books and even a Zanussi tumble dryer reservoir flange.

The nearest reservoir to where I grew up was called the Whiteadder Reservoir, my Dad used to live near Edgbaston reservoir and I always like hearing about John Shuttleworth’s visits to measure the level of Ladybower Reservoir.

Some other movies and books featuring numbers include Apollo 13, Starter for 10, Friday 13th, Studio 54,  Magnificent 7, Super 8, Ocean’s 11, Death Race 2000 and The Hateful 8. And while we’re on Tarantino, can it be a coincidence that McGregor has two words in the titles of his novels which make up one of Tarantino’s movie titles and that he writes Fiction (although not Pulp).

But none of these gets anywhere near to the new novel by Jon McGregor, the “absurdly gifted” (Guardian) novelist. Or its title, at least. Looking forward to reading the remainder of the words in the book in due course. In the meantime, it’s full marks from me.

5 star

 





Just the thing

16 06 2012

This isn’t the sort of thing that happens to someone like you by Jon McGregor

A man builds a tree house by a river, in anticipation of the coming flood. A sugar-beet crashes through a young woman’s windscreen. A boy sets fire to a barn. A pair of itinerant labourers sit by a lake, talking about shovels and sex, while fighter-planes fly low overhead and prepare for war.

Set in the flat and threatened fenland landscape, where the sky is dominant and the sea lurks just beyond the horizon, these delicate, dangerous, and sometimes deeply funny stories tell of things buried and unearthed, of familiar places made strange, and of lives where much is hidden, much is at risk, and tender moments are hard-won.

(This brief note appeared in a recent What Are You Reading? column in Times Higher Education.)

Jon McGregor is my favourite writer at the moment. After three outstanding novels (all highly recommended) he’s now delivered a wonderful collection of short stories. The writing is lyrical, poetic and haunting with many of the pieces containing an underlying menace. Set in the bleak, flat fens (with echoes of Swift’s Waterland) these are remarkable stories of strange and different lives and events and things that shouldn’t happen to someone like you. But they do.

It’s a terrific book and highly recommended. Jon McGregor’s website about the book includes further details about the location of each of the stories and is well worth exploring.





Dog days

9 03 2010

Even the dogs by Jon McGregor

They break down the door at the end of December and carry his body away. On a still and frozen day between Christmas and New Year, a man’s body is found lying in his ruined flat. Found, and then taken away, examined, investigated and cremated. As the state begins its detailed, dispassionate inquest, the man embarks on his last journey through a world he has not ventured into, alive, for years. In his wake, a series of fractured narratives emerge from squats and alleyways across the city: the short and stark story of the man, and of his friends who look on from the shadows, keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying their own particular homage. As they watch, their stories unfurl layer by layer; stories of lives fallen through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress and the disregard of the wider world. Intense, exhilarating, and shot through with hope and fury, Even the Dogs is an intimate exploration of life at the edges of society; littered with love, loss, despair and a glimpse of redemption.

Terrific new book by an outstanding author. Whilst the subjects and subject matter seem unremittingly grim, nevertheless there is hope and tenderness in places. The details of the daily drudge of drug abuse feel startlingly real and recall the darker passages of Trainspotting. McGregor’s sparse style and brutally sharp prose mean that not a word is wasted. Really excellent and highly recommended.








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