Reservoir 13

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2018

Member Reviews

I am afraid I found this book very boring. I struggled to get through it and eventually gave up half way.  Sorry!

Far too prescriptive and could not follow the plot, if there was one!
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Deep in the heart of the moors and hills of the northern Peak District lies a community surrounded by reservoirs and one New Year a young girl goes missing.  This shoots the village to headline news and despite all the best efforts of the locals the girl is not found.  However life must go on and the effects of these events impact all around to a greater or lesser extent.  Over the next ten or so years the book follows the local characters and the wider life in the area.

This is an incredibly unusual book in that there is little plot and the narrative takes place in a series of long paragraphs which almost list a series of events happening to people and also to nature, some are mundane, some challenging, some barely drawn.  It takes a while to get into the book, I was expecting some form of twist or 'plot device' but there isn't one, it's just a description of life in a village after one serious event takes place.  Once one realises this there is a wonderful rhythm to the writing and a lovely way of interspersing observations about nature with profound events in the life of the villagers.
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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.
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I remember being blown away by Jon McGregor's debut novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things a few years ago and have gone on to read all his books since then.   I know that his understated, lyrical style isn't everyone's cup of tea but I love it.

Reservoir 13 tells the story of a group of people who live in a small village in northern England over a period of just over 10 years.  At the start of the book a 13 year old girl called Becky goes missing while she and her parents are staying at a holiday cottage in the area, and McGregor goes on to observe the locals' reactions to the event and its aftermath, as life inevitably returns to something like normal for everyone but the girl's parents who are often seen wandering forlornly around the village.

The characters and their everyday lives are beautifully described (I particularly enjoyed reading about Richard and Cathy's poignant mid-life relationship) and nature also has a large role to play in the storyline with the passing years since Becky's disappearance marked with the birth of animals and migration of birds. 

The mystery of Becky's disappearance isn't tied up neatly at the end, although a few seeds are planted. The writing has an almost 'stream of consciousness' style as McGregor tells several stories on the same page (sometimes in the same paragraph) and I loved the hypnotically beautiful style and the depiction of everyday life continuing in the face of tragedy. A very absorbing and poignant read.
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Not what  I expected at all. It just did not hit the spot for me. I like a good thriller with a resolution at the end which this book did not have. It was just the same chapter after chapter with no outcome. Not for me I am afraid.
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Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor is a beautiful piece of storytelling.  A young girl goes missing whilst on holiday with her parents in a remote rural area.  Her disappearance touches the heart of the community and though the years pass and there is no trace of her, she is not forgotten.  Babies are born, old people die, teenagers grow up and go to university, people fall in love, others divorce.  The seasons change and people age but the tragedy of the girl's disappearance still lingers.  It is a novel that is lyrical and haunting.  Jon McGregor is the master of literary fiction.
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I think my rating of this book requires an explanation. I always finish the books I start, but could not with this one. There is nothing wrong with the book, Its just not for me. It felt like "smoothie" to me, you take ingredients and blend it all together, than ask someone to identify the ingredients used. I don't have enough patience for it :)
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I took a while to get into this book because Jon McGregor's writing is unique but once I got used to it I found it captivating. Reservoir 13 isn't a thriller though it begins with a missing child. It's about the community in the village where she was staying when she disappeared. It's about time and the seasons and how things change in everybody's lives.

Thanks to Netgalley for my copy.
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This is a beautifully written book with lots of detail and descriptions of life in a small country village.  The seasons come and go, relationships begin and end and  village life carries on throughout. At the centre of the book is a missing girl. The book spans 20 years noting all the changes that occur and how the girl affects their lives.
The end is a disapointment and I felt cheated but I still enjoyed the book.
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Not my usual choice of novel, it was ok but I think I will stick with my thriller type books in future
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I requested this book as soon as I saw it on NetGalley as I am a fan of Jon McGregor. There is something very entrancing about his prose. His novels are usually short but resonant and linger beyond the page. His sentences are unassuming yet haunting.

This novel is slightly longer than some of his previous titles at over 300 pages but honestly it is a read that flows like a mountain waterfall rather than the still, unmoving reservoirs it describes. You will be caught up in the rhythm of his words and you will move through the pages as gently and as fluently as the rhythm of the seasons he describes, losing track as the days merge into months then years.

Rebecca Shaw has gone missing.

"She was thirteen years old. When last seen she'd been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans, and canvas shoes. She was five feet tall with straight, dark-blonde, shoulder-length hair." 

The village lead a search, the police investigate and the public are urged to speak up if they see or hear anything that might help. But "doubts were beginning to emerge."

In terms of the search and the investigation, the reader is never given much more information than this. Unusually, the tragedy of the missing girl is the backdrop to the story rather than the main focus. This is not a typical crime novel, it is much more a piece of literary fiction, but it is full of atmosphere and tension. The opening pages capture the oppressive feel within the community as they try to make sense of what has happened and then the mood continues to become more eerie as McGregor writes:

"At night there were dreams about where she might have gone. Dreams about her walking down from the moor, her clothes soaked and her skin almost blue. Dreams about being the first to reach her with a blanket and bring her safely home." 

McGregor's uses repetition throughout the novel. Sometimes it is a repetition of the exact sentences, sometimes slight changes are used to mark the passage of time - for example when details are rereleased by the police it is written the same as the initial press release but they change the age, her length of her hair, the condition of her clothes. The dreams suffered by the villagers are also repeated, becoming more and more unsettling or ghostly. Set against this, is the repetition of the description of another fireworks display at New Year - a straight forward, informative sentence which shows how normal life resumes. McGregor's skill is always in this juxtaposition of the ordinary, mundane observations against the more insightful and emotive observations.

I thought the use of repetition was incredibly effective. It is used powerfully to track the passage of time, the inevitable rhythm of the seasons and individuals lives but also more poignantly, the fading hope, the growing desperation and inevitability of life moving on; the fading concern or care for the missing girl. It feels poetic and cyclical. It's clever but understated and without pretension. It's readable and engaging, compelling and sensitive.

McGregor is a great creator of characters. Each character appears to have small, bit part but they are memorable and all evoke sympathy or interest. The girl's mother is like a shadow, spotted around and about the town and the moors, "walking the same paths and tracks she'd always walked." A simple statement but weighted with meaning. One of my favourite characters was Su Cooper, her husband Austin and their twins. I liked the mixture of statements which show the reader how they are looking after their family - that are statements explaining the practicalities of their actions and preparations but over time the sentences reveal more about the tensions, pressures and complexities of family dynamics and marriage.

I liked the almost list like observations. I liked the clear setting of time, season, who was doing what and what was happening where. I liked the mundanity of the meetings people attended, the arrangements they made. Reservoir 13 is like a litany; a repetition of the things people do, the pattern of their lives, the order they think they have created, the inevitability they think their life is following.  Yet beneath this, Reservoir 13 is really telling us what is hidden underneath all this. It is an exploration of the human condition - of the little things in life that occur, build up, unfold and affect everyone. Reservoir 13 is poetic and mesmerising. Through it's simple prose it shows how everyday hurt and suffering cannot be hidden even against the distraction of a devastating crime.

McGregor writes in very long paragraphs, with long sentences and a lack of speech punctuation. Some readers may find this difficult to follow or at times overwhelming. I think it is another way of hiding the unusual and the poignant amongst the normal and everyday.

I did enjoy it a lot. I think McGregor is a talented writer. I think his style is unique and very distinctive. It is definitely worthy of re-reading, re-reading and probably re-reading again.

This novel reminded me of some of the aspects of "Happy Valley' and 'Broadchurch'. Reservoir 13 is a gripping character driven story where the police procedural element has been stripped away and made secondary. Although the TV shows are firmly about a police investigation they are also about communities under pressure and characters coping in with everyday life while trying to solve a crime. McGregor looks at the effects of a community during a long running missing persons investigation; what else happens to these people and their lives while the crime continues unsolved. He explores how the police investigation continues to infiltrate and haunt the town but no longer claims the front pages or headlines of their daily life. McGregor asks fascinating questions about human nature, about what is noticed or unnoticed and how the unremarkable is remarkable; how the ordinary can be extraordinary and as damaging and as full of impact as the sensationalist headlines that consume people.

Recommend.
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Everything happens yet nothing happens!

This is my first encounter with this author so I was totally new to his way of writing. The books begins with the disappearance, in the early 2000s, of a missing girl, Rebecca Shaw. She has been on holiday with her parents to celebrate the New Year.

The small village unites in an effort to find her but as the days and months and even years go by the mystery is not solved. Instead the writer then goes on to describe how this incident affects the residents of the village, their everyday lives, relationships, grief and all the mundane events that make up a life in a small village.

The characters are numerous and the book switches from one to another without really giving any full idea of who they are or what makes them who they are. Life goes on with all its variations and as the years go by the original missing girl is just something that once happened. The characters blend into the natural landscape and as the seasons pass so do events and people. The actual writing is very beautiful and descriptive and draws you into the village and its people.

However, in the end nothing really happens. The author does not use paragraphs or conversation. He seems more interested in description and rhythm and to begin with this intrigued me. After a while though I found it very difficult to read as nothing progresses and none of the characters seems to have any depth. Events happen, are commented on and then we move on to the next person.

This style of writing obviously appeals to a lot of readers but I found it almost overbearing after a while. I am glad I read this book but will not be looking at his earlier novels as this style is not for me.  

Dexter

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review
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Tedious beyond belief.  A whole book of disjointed sentences, one chapter would have been sufficient to cover it all.  However, having said that I thought the descriptions of the countryside were rather nice, in the beginning.  No story, no plot, no ending just a lot of countryside meandering.
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I really tried with this book. I kept thinking I would get used to the unusual prose but I just couldn't it felt like an endless onslaught of information. I can see why others would like this but I just couldn't persevere with it.
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Every now and then a book comes along that is written in a style unlike any other. This is one of those books. Reservoir 13 is intimate, conversational, gossipy, nosy, and reads at times like a soap opera, at times like a country music song with a story to tell. Neither of those last two descriptions accurately convey its brilliance though. While seemingly detached, the style gets right under the skin. Sometimes it seems too much and one wishes for a break into direct speech or action, but it goes relentlessly on, poking its nose into other people's business.

A young teenager goes missing in the hills around Reservoir 13. The girl was last seen out walking with her parents but became separated from them. Naturally, the parents are suspected but there are others in the village with secrets to keep and information to hide. The girl's friends have not revealed all they could have done about the relationships between them. There are those in the village who have dark interests in young persons. There are philanderers and secret lovers and those who never manage to connect. There are marriages, divorces and violence. There are births and deaths and illnesses - indeed, all life is here. And underlying it all is the girl who disappeared.

Weeks, months and ultimately years go by and the girl is still missing. This is the story of how such an event impacts on a community, how they deal with it, respond to it and incorporate it into their reality. 

Truly unique and a fascinating read.
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Started well with evocative descriptions of landscape, and sketches of all the people affected by the disappearance of a missing child. But I was waiting for the focus to settle on the main story.  When I realised that it was going to continue as a story of the whole village through the next few months, without a main protagonist, there wasn't enough to hold my interest. Not for me I'm afraid.
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A teenage girl on holiday goes missing in the hills in the middle of winter. Despite a large search party, including the villagers, she cannot be found. Time passes as the seasons come and go. Life in the village goes on.
Reservoir 13 is straight-forward storytelling with uncluttered prose, but don't let the simplicity of the words fool you, because they've been very cleverly chosen. This no-frills type of language is the beauty of the way this novel has been written. You can choose to savour the brilliant construction of the narrative, or simply let the story wash over you.
It is hard to believe that a book following the story of a village over several years can hold a reader’s interest, but it does.
The world of the villagers shifts and transforms with the changing seasons of the rugged countryside around it (the location of which resonates strongly with anyone familiar with the Peak District). There is a distance in the way the villagers’ lives are related, but at the same time each loop of a narrative about a particular person keeps reeling you in tighter until you become emotionally involved.
The village and its surroundings are also characters in the story, and relating the ebb and flow of the seasons to the village and those in it become hypnotic.
At the back of your mind is always what has happened to the missing girl. But you become far more fascinated by the world you can see and experience through Jon McGregor’s skillful storytelling.
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This is another book that's really taken me by surprise. Supposedly it's about the disappearance of a young girl and it's impact on the small, rural community she's visiting at the time.
However readers expecting to read the ins and outs of a standard 'whodunnit' are in for a pleasant surprise. McGregor starts off telling the tale of the investigation but as time moves on so does the day to day life of the community and its people. People fall in love, have children, have affairs, get arrested, go fishing, tend allotments and farms - all with the shadow of the missing girl hanging over them still.
McGregor captures the details of rural life with incredibly detailed writing - the people and natural environments pass through beautifully described seasons and the book itself takes on the rhythm of nature's steady heartbeat. However every so often there's a small reveal of the missing girls last movements or a mention of maintenance work going on at the local reservoir that had me thinking "this is it now"...
More than anything else though I was drawn into the run of the mill comings and goings of a normal, rural community with its little foibles and intrigues. The closest comparison I can make is Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood with more realism.
5/5
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McGregor is one of my absolute favourite authors, and this book lived up to all of the anticipation which I had for it.  It is cleverly structured and beautifully written, and is one which I will certainly be recommending.
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