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Review of Reservoir 13

April 28, 2017

Review of Reservoir 13

Jon McGregor sprang to fame in 2002 with his debut novel If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things. Written when he was just 26, it made the Man Booker Prize longlist and began his highly acclaimed literary career, which continued with So Many Ways To Begin (also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), Even The Dogs, and the short story collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You. Along the way, he’s won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Now he’s returned with his fourth novel, Reservoir 13, which, though not a crime novel, has a mystery at its core. Set in a small village somewhere in the Peak District, it’s a chronicle of ordinary lives lived over thirteen years, sometime at the beginning of the 21st century. It begins with the disappearance of Rebecca Shaw, a thirteen-year-old girl who was on holiday in the town with her family, in the run-up to the New Year. No-one knows where she has gone, despite a search of the town and the surrounding countryside. Do the teenagers of the town know more than they are letting on? And what about her family? Can a reconstruction of the last time she was seen by police help jog people’s memories?

"bold, original, and poetic"

Each chapter takes in a year in the life of the village, as the seasons change and traditions and rituals are observed. We see how the lives of many characters unfold, as children and teenagers grow up and move away, as babies are born and the elderly die, as people’s jobs and careers progress, change, or stall, and as affairs and relationships begin and end. The mystery of the girl’s disappearance hangs in the air, a reminder of the passing of time. 

Alongside the lives of the villagers, the novel also charts the lives of the wildlife in the area – from the plants and flowers which bloom and fade and return in the spring and summer, to the insects which develop and grow in the woods and the fields, and the birds and animals, such as blackbirds, foxes and badgers. The lives of plants, animals, and people are reflected in each other, as each takes on every new season and year in its own way. 

Written in Jon McGregor’s distinctive style, we dip into and out of these lives, hearing the voices of some of the residents of the village, and watching the actions of people and animals from one year to the next. McGregor’s narration brings us closer to the significant moments of the characters’ individual stories, and provides an overview of a community which finds it hard to shake off the tragic notoriety of Rebecca Shaw’s disappearance. Bold, original, and poetic, this is a novel which takes us to the heart of the ever-passing present, and demonstrates how hard it is to grasp reality whilst in the process of experiencing it. It has the potential to win its author another award.

Written by Ruth, Marketing

  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
    Reservoir 13

    From the award-winning author of 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' and 'Even the Dogs'. 'Reservoir 13' tells the story of many lives haunted by one family's loss.

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