ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— For the fans, all I have to say is, there's a new Jon McGregor. Like me, you'll just be excited to know he's got a new book out, doesn't matter what it's about, you know it will be brilliant.
For the rest of you? Those who haven't read If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (which won the Betty Trask Prize and Somerset Maugham Award and was listed for the Booker in 2002) or So Many Ways to Begin (also Booker listed in 2006) or Even the Dogs which won the Impac in 2012. (There's also a very fine collection of short stories, if you prefer that form: This isn't the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You). Well, I would say you need to!
McGregor breaks rules. Each of his books is different in style, but all are involving. You can't help but trust him as you are immersed in the stories he tells, and as importantly, the way he tells them. Reservoir 13 is an extraordinary addition to his body of work.
The novel's lynchpin is the disappearance of a young teenage girl. She was on a New Year holiday with her parents and lagged behind on a country walk. The whole village turns out to search for her, but she is never seen again. The novel then spreads over the next thirteen years, always circling back to the mystery of Rebecca's whereabouts; yet what it does is describe the people of the village and their lives, the traditions that bind and the changes that gradually overtake them, and the surrounding landscape and wildlife. Equal importance is given to things such as the movement of herons and badgers, the gardens in the allotments, the flow of water and weather, as to the human stories unfolding gradually: friendships and failed marriages, difficult relatives and ill health, children and old people, work and recreation, bereavements and resilience. A paragraph may continue the stories of a number of human characters in a few lines and then relate the seasonal happenings in the natural world - a beautifully elegant and exquisitely observed narrative.
Layers and layers of small revelations build up to a rich and varied portrayal of communal life in all its ordinariness and small gracenotes. It's so rare to come across such true accomplishment that I can almost forgive him for not being more prolific! Lindy Jones
Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.
Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must. As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart.
There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.
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 stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.