Reservoir 13

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2018

Member Reviews

The ingenious adverts on the tube made me want to read this book and I'm so glad i did! Highly recommended - a book that is worthy of the accolades!
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Sublime on every single level. One of the books of the decade. The writing is beautiful, the pace perfect. I felt drawn into the lives of the people of the village and wished it had gone on longer.
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I found this an interesting idea - to show the ebb and flow of life in a community after a teenager mysteriously disappears. I admired the concept, but the execution left me cold. 
The girl's disappearance hardly seems to matter in the grand scheme of things, which is an interesting point - but I think if could have been made just as effectively if the book was much shorter. The rest of the narrative is written in a very detached style so that we see patterns and human seasons. This is an interesting choice but also very uninvolving - and again, the effect could have been achieved in far fewer pages. I did not feel caught up or moved - instead I found myself wondering why it needed to be so long.
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At first I found this book very hard to get into because of the number of characters.  The storyline was very interesting about the everyday life of a small village.  I found it hard to keep up with who was who in some places,  It was not an easy storyline but I did enjoy it in some places.
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I started this book 6 months before I finished it, mid reading slump. I didn't get far through - the book was boring, it was wordy and confusing and dull.

Six months later, brain more engaged, and I read this in as short a time as I could fit it into, desperate to find out who "done it". I can see why I struggled - until I realised what the structure was it continued to trip me up, but as soon as I did it drew me into its genius. I've raved about this book ever since. Loved it!
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There are more simultaneous story-lines in Reservoir 13 than in any soap opera, but the writing is often at the level of poetry. 

From the launchpad of the disappearance of a 13-year old girl, it charts equally the mundance and miraculous occurrences that comprise the biography of a small town over a period of years.  All nature is here from insects to the female vicar.  Interestingly, the small sample of young people who grow up during the novel are revealed as predictable at times as badgers or foxes.   Only rarely does McGregor burrow deep into any of the feelings of a character, yet the non-revelation for most of the characters makes the reader have to interpret the surface signs and burrow beyond the obvious, an exercise which makes the mind flow into the various intrigues, mysteries and outcomes. .  

I loved Even the Dogs by McGregor and have no hesitation in giving this book top marks.
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A girl goes missing but life in the village carries on. The thought of the missing girl was in the back of my mind all the time. Will she be found and if so, alive or dead? 
At first there were too many characters for me to remember who was who but as I got into it they all fell into place. An intriguing read.
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I finally got around to reading this book on the strength of its Costa success which always indicates a readable book to me.  It is very different, almost like a very well written diary from a member of a small community.  A girl has disappeared but although the terrible incident is referred to at intervals, it is not the central issue.  The writing is almost mesmeric, a mix of observation of people and of nature, both of equal importance, all everyday stuff but it does suck you in. Worth reading but don't expect a thriller or whodunnit.
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A thirteen year-old girl disappears in a village in the Peak District - the police are called, searches are carried out, newspapers are primed. As the months pass, we are drawn into the lives of the people left behind and examine what happens in the aftermath of a tragedy. Jon McGregor has created an addictive and compelling story of village life under a microscope, the rhythm and momentum of the prose drawing the reader in utterly. In conventional hands this would be a straightforward police procedural whodunnit, but instead of ‘Broadchurch-ing’ it the author takes us away from the well-beaten path and into the wilderness. Reservoir 13 deftly manages to simultaneously convey both tranquil calm and an underlying disquiet, not an easy balancing act given the subject matter. This is a novel about secrets, which resonates long after it has been finished.
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A really beautiful book that looks at how life goes on in the wake of an unresolved missing persons case. Thirteen year old Becky, holidaying with her parents, goes missing in the Peak District. As the search extends over days, weeks, months and then years, life continues in the village but with the constant presence of Becky hanging over their lives. As she becomes part of the fabric of the history of the town, rumours abound about her fate - from definitive ends to appearances around the world, as well as talk of sitings of what might be her father, roaming the hills, seeking his lost child.
This is a wonderfully paced story, that draws you into the simple life of a small English town, throws everything in the air, and then watches as it settles seemingly back into place once more, but with subtly different ways to before. Mystery turns into mournfulness turns back into mundanity as time moves ever forwards. Hugely recommended, and extremely worthy of all the awards and nominations heaped upon it.
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Under Milk Wood, meets The Archers, meets Midsummer Murders.
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“The missing girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. In the photo her face was half turned away from the camera as though she didn’t want to be seen, as though she wanted to be somewhere else. She would be twenty years old by now but she was always spoken of as a girl”.

This short, tender, masterpiece tells the simple story of a village in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy that’s a weirdly familiar story. A 13-year-old slight blonde girl in a white hoodie vanishes while on holiday with her family in the Peak district over New Years. A media frenzy ensues, and then slowly drains away. But life must continue for the residents of the small town now synonymous with her disappearance. And so Reservoir 13 checks in regularly with a host of characters throughout the town, as weeks become seasons, become years. The slow unfurling of their lives against this backdrop simultaneously brings us a deeper knowledge of the individual characters and of the patterns of human life regardless of any one individual. This is a moving, hypnotic work well deserving of its place on the Man Booker longlist.
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Reservoir 13 from Jon McGregor and I would read his shopping list I swear. He’s the most beautiful writer and you feel like he doesn’t waste a single word, you know? Like every syllable has been carefully considered and placed for maximum impact.  His books are often about the ordinary but he makes it into something extraordinary and he sees things. He writes about normal people and every day experiences and he makes them into things that you feel down to to your very bones. Oh God, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say and I do not at all want to come across like I’m fawning over him even though actually I totally probably am. Shit.
So Reservoir 13 is about loss, about a girl on holiday that goes missing and about how that loss impacts not just her family but everybody, the people in the village that she didn’t even know because when something like that happens life changes at the same time as it stays somehow exactly the same. It isn’t a novel about a terrible crime; it’s a novel about people and it’s just classic Jon McGregor, beautiful and moving and understated ad I absolutely loved it.
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This book is written with such beautiful descriptions of nature I almost forgot it is a crime novel.

When a girl goes missing from a quiet village the people all unite in trying to find her.
but the oddity is that the villagers still get on with their lives such as preparing for a pantomime.

The circle of life is the main message in this tale and it is an excellent read.

It reads like a poem and I got lost in the wonderful details of the Peak District and the changes in the seasons as life went on amidst the sadness of the missing child
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I haven't read any Jon McGregor before but could instantly see why his writing commands so much respect.  There are certain drawbacks to not having a central character - there are far too many here to keep track of - and I'm a bit disappointed that he chose to involve the overdone 'missing child' trope, which nearly put me off reading this at all and is really just a device.  But I'm glad I did - it's one of my favourite books of 2017 and I'll be giving it to several people as a gift.  Alongside the beautiful evocations of nature and the passing seasons, a very touching sense of humanity and compassion runs through the novel.
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This was long listed for the Man Booker. It is a wonderful book. About the disappearance of a teenage girl on holiday in mysterious circumstances. At first everyone in the village is searching and shocked and there is no other topic of conversation. `But in that strange way that life goes on when something terrible happens and it is hard, if you are in the thick of it, to understand how normal things still happen, life does go on. Jon describes how, over 13 years and in 13 chapters, the shock becomes less and slowly the ripples run still. He notices how the cows must be milked, the sheep dealt with, nature carries on and people do too, all the time keeping the tensions there that the girl will be found in the old lead mines, in the boiler room of the school guarded by the strange school caretaker, in the house where the woman who never goes out lives…. He is a master storyteller, describing country life, village life and the seasons passing. We are reminded just how short and almost unimportant our individual lives are. A lot may be read into what is left out as well as what is said.

This is one of my favourite authors for the quality of the writing, the calmness of the book, the observations of life that slides past day by day, month by month, year by year.
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More a novel with a crime in it than a crime novel, this book nevertheless carries one along the life of a village, exploring a number of characters over more than a decade, for healthier for poorer, charting the rhythm of the seasons. The village it concerns itself has a drowned past, from when thirteen reservoirs were connected at the cost of flooding a series of small hamlets, whose buildings reveal themselves only in times of drought. These prior villages form a kind of archaeology of the area, but nobody thinks much about them. The title’s 13th Reservoir appears to have special status. The book was longlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize and was one of the Guardian’s ‘Notable Books’.
Central characters walk off the set and are seen no more, while new ones arrive. And so, too, do the wild things that inhabit the woods and the hills. In every season there is cause to remember the girl who disappeared, and her name reappears in someone’s mind every year. The evocations of human and wild life come around like the chorus at the end of a song—or a chapter. The writing is elegant, in a plain sort of way, and continuous, rather than marked by paragraphs long or short. So, this may be what is called a literary novel, but it matters to us because the no-doubt-by-now dead girl punctuates the lives of the living at regular intervals. Its suspense is—obviously—when or whether the girl’s body will be found. It comes to an end and stops, although it continued to reverberate in my mind. Probably not immediately attractive to those who prefer their action rapid and plots with surprising twists, but—at least for me—this is yet another sign of the importance and the usefulness of crime writing in many places.
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I have very conflicted feelings about “Reservoir 13” by Jon McGregor because I admired so much about its technique and ingenuity, but I often wasn't engaged by the story in that satisfying way I hope a novel will make me feel. The novel centres around 13 year old Rebecca Shaw who goes missing and the effect her disappearance has on the local village. It traces the reverberations of this occurrence for over a decade recording small slices of the villagers' lives and the changing seasons as well as speculation about what happened to Rebecca or “Becky” or “Bex.” In this way, the novel accurately reflects what it's like to be vaguely aware of a missing girl and periodically see references to her in the media over time. It's poignant how a missing child never ages, but remains a peripheral presence in our consciousness while we continue to grow and change. Despite computer generated sketches that speculate how Rebecca might look if she aged, the villagers mentally see the girl preserved in her youthful form and she exists fundamentally as a haunting unanswered question.

McGregor depicts a large cast of characters in a glancing way where we receive intimations about life developments, but never delve into any one character's psyche very deeply. Over a long period of time we see friends make plans for the future, follow different paths in life and reunite for awkward catch-ups. Marriages break up, optimistically come back together and fizzle out again. In this way, the novel gives the most extraordinarily accurate sense of village life where we have a vague awareness of major life changes for a certain group of people, but never truly get to know them. A novel which produces a similar effect (but has a very different style and nature) is Joanna Cannon's “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep” which also concerns a community's reaction to a missing person. It makes a poignant commentary about the natural way we socialize, make assumptions about others and never get the chance to truly engage with them on a meaningful level. It’s also really beautifully written but there are lots of mundane details about the multitude of characters’ lives alongside details that clue you into larger issues those characters are dealing with. Because I didn’t feel like I really knew the characters in depth, I cared about those mundane details even less than I would in a novel where there are a few central characters I got to know really well. If that were the case, I’d be okay with treading water waiting for a more interesting plot development or psychological insight. But, in “Reservoir 13” I felt like I didn't grasp who many of the characters were until page 200 or so – at which time there was so little of their story left in the novel it's like I barely ever knew them at all.

No doubt a rereading would yield a more fruitful understanding of the characters involved. The first time I read Virginia Woolf's “The Waves” I had difficulty distinguishing between the six central characters – partly because the oddball poetic language blurred them into one at first. It's only been through multiple re-readings that each character has crystallised into a distinct individual with many layers of psychological depth. In the long run, that made the novel feel so much more rewarding and also turned it into my absolute favourite novel. The comparison between these novels is apt because McGregor's novel also follows a small group of adolescents' lives as they grow up and in doing so poignantly captures the flow of time and paths in life. Woolf also traces how the sun rises and crosses the sky in her novel while McGregor gives equal weight to changes in nature. Frequently descriptions of characters' lives are interspersed in the same paragraph with an observation about developments in the lives of local animals like birds and foxes. So while we witness characters give birth, change jobs and suffer, we also witness over the years bats who breed, feed and hibernate. This gives an even more fully rounded portrait of what it's like to live in a community.

Alongside descriptions of specific characters McGregor also refers to the lives of peripheral individuals in a striking way. A man moves to the village and people think of him as “the widower” even though no one knows the specifics of his situation. It turns out that his wife isn't dead at all; they are merely separated. Yet, the community still think of him as a widower and never get to know many more details of his life. The false impression about him has been cemented in the public's consciousness in a way which is both tragic and comic. A similar impression is given of the missing girl's parents who are viewed from a distance in a way that we can see hints of their painful conflict, but don't really fully understand or know them. A different but equally meaningful effect is created when we get a slight understanding of the domestic abuse a mother receives at the hands of her mentally/behaviourally-disabled child or the fear of a woman who escaped a painfully destructive marriage or a man's conflicted feelings about his son's homosexuality. Other characters are hesitant to intrude upon these characters personal lives making the reader feel the excruciating sting of isolation.

All this means that I've been really moved thinking about what Jon McGregor did in the structure and style of this novel. It's a revelatory depiction of what it means to live in a community and society. But, at the same time, when I was actually reading it I found my mind so often drifting to other things and I found it difficult to concentrate on. McGregor's successful stylistic choices effectively convey powerful meaning, but at the expense of a wholly immersive story. So it depends what kind of reading experience you're after. If you want a book you can meditate on and get more out of by reading it a second time around, “Reservoir 13” is a great book. But it's not the kind of novel that pulls you into the text so that you entirely forget that the world exists around you – at least, it didn't do that for me reading it for the first time.
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This is an extremely rare case of Did Not Finish for me. I tried reading Reservoir 13 back in January when I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from NetGalley, but ended up abandoning it a third of the way through. I returned to it last weekend and again it defeated me. Apologies to Jon McGregor and Fourth Estate - it's just not my cup of tea.

The story is set in a remote village of England's Peak District. Rebecca Shaw, a 13-year-old holidaymaker, vanishes without trace. The locals organise a search party and spend the following weeks covering every blade of grass in hope of clues. Rebecca's parents are at first frantic with worry, then overwhelmed by grief. As time progresses and chances of her survival dwindle, we follow the effect of the girl's disappearance on the village population.

The book's synopsis makes it sound like a thriller, but it's not. Instead the story focuses on the community in which the tragic incident occurred. Time marches on and each chapter covers a year of events in the village. We learn about the families of the local area. Babies are born, teenagers leave for university, relationships spark and fizzle. Rebecca's disappearance gradually fades from the immediate public consciousness, but it also lingers in the background as people realise that the perpetrator may still live among them.

Maybe it was the size of the cast and the constant flitting between characters. Maybe it was the book's slow pace, a drawn-out procession of ordinary rural life. But I just could not bring myself to care about this story. I have yet to read a single negative review of the novel and it has been hotly tipped as a possible Booker Prize winner, so the problem clearly lies with me. It would be unfair of me to award a star rating as I didn't make it to the end. So I'll just finish these thoughts and leave it at that.
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Undeniably beautiful writing, McGregor manages to make even the most mundane interesting. The small elements of people's lives become important. A literary soap opera of sorts. Really enjoyed this, although I know some people will say that 'nothing happens', that's true and also not true, it's simply about real people in a real place.
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