Monday, 10 April 2017

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor


review by Maryom


Rebecca Shaw, on a New Year holiday with her parents, goes out walking on the moors one day, and disappears. The locals gather to help the police search the area, and at first the talk is of a twisted ankle, or the girl deliberately staying out, trying to frighten her parents, and expectations are high that she'll soon be found. But there are so many things that could have happened - she could have fallen into a quarry, be trapped down an abandoned mine, sucked into one of the bogs on the moor, or even hitched a lift to the nearest city, - and as the days, weeks, months pass, finding her seems unlikely. Despite their initial shock and concern, the villagers soon find that life continues, at first slowly but speeding up with the passing of the years - Spring comes with lambs and fox cubs, wild flowers blossom in the hedgerows, vegetables sprout up at the allotments; babies are born, children grow, relationships develop or falter, the elderly die, newcomers arrive, and ultimately people begin to forget about a missing girl.

I usually try to avoid spoilers when  writing reviews but I don't think that's possible here because a lot of my thoughts revolve around what the book IS, and what it ISN'T.

Although the book opens with Rebecca's disappearance, it ISN'T a crime thriller, with clues to unearth, false leads to pursue, but ultimately leading to a resolution. Over the years, various times of Rebecca's clothing are found but no real evidence of what happened or clue to her whereabouts discovered. Instead the focus is on the impact to the people living in this quiet out-of-the-way village - something devastating has happened on their doorstep, but to an outsider that most of them had never met. Naturally they're shocked, but for how long can they be expected to grieve and put their lives on hold?

Personally I found a lot of similarities with McGregor's first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. In much the same way, it encourages the reader to see and remark upon the small happenings that occur from day to day around us but which are so often missed in the rush of life; to stop for a while and watch a butterfly, listen to birdsong, or notice our children growing from infants to teenagers. It's a mesmerising, beautifully written book charting the emotional and physical changes within a small tightly-knit community over thirteen years, but this time I was left wanting something more. As the years pass, snippets of information come to light about Rebecca's disappearance, various items of her clothing are found on the moors, but no explanation of her disappearance is forthcoming. This may, in all honesty, be truer to life than a crime novel which neatly closes all leads off by the final page, and reaches some nature of resolution, even if not a happy one, but, even so, I was left unsatisfied. Somewhere I read that the mark of a literary novel is that it ends without resolution - this is certainly literary, not crime, fiction.


Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - Fourth Estate
Genre - adult literary fiction, 


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