Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – Book Review

Title: Reservoir 13 (review copy)

Author: Jon McGregor

Genre/Themes: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Community

Blurb from Goodreads

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.

Long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2017.

My Review

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

five stars

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.

Published April 2017

Other Works by Jon McGregor I’ve Reviewed

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5 thoughts on “Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – Book Review

    1. Oh this is one of my favourite books of all time. It shouldn’t work… It focuses on no lead character…but somehow it is still one of the most moving pieces of literature I have read and one that made me feel more connected to humanity as a whole. I read this well over 2 years ago and it’s still fresh in my mind. I think that’s testament to how well written a book it is. Thanks Amanda…I’m sorry to be adding to that TBR but also not sorry too because this book is fab lol 😂😂😂


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