Reservoir 13

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2018

Member Reviews

A thirteen-year look at the life of the residents of a Peak District village, with the whereabouts of the missing girl haunting everybody.  Short, precise sentences gallop through the months of each year, yet create an impressive picture of the area and its folk, their lives and loves.
A very enjoyable read
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This book is well written but it felt as if the story did not go anywhere. I expected there to be a lot more in the book about finding Becky and a lot less about the repetition of village life.
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Sorry to say but this book bored me. There was lots of statements and descriptions about places, people, seasons etc but to me it really didn't gel as a story. Very disappointed.
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"The missing girl's name was Rebecca Shaw. When last seen she'd been wearing a white hooded top."

This was such an unexpected but interesting little book. That sounds really patronising but I don't mean it to. With a missing girl story line I thought the plot line of Reservoir 13 would focus on the police investigation, but instead author Jon McGregor looks at how this event effects the community of the village she went missing in. It's not really like anything I've read before. It's about ordinary people and everyday life, yet it celebrates the beauty of the mundane.

As I said before, Reservoir 13 is not really a crime novel; if you're expecting a thorough mystery with a satisfying ending then this is not for you. To be honest, that was what I was expecting and when I first realised this was not what Reservoir 13 was, I couldn't get on with it, especially as the prose moves so fast. But once I settled in I really loved it.

I've never read any other Jon McGregor before so I don't know if this is how he usually writes, but his prose was fast and almost skips from character to character, never staying on one story-line for too long. At first this was quite disorientating, however, once I got used to the pace I actually enjoyed it. You'd think he wouldn't be able to impart knowledge or build a character when writing with such fast prose, but he is brilliant at making a character come to life with only the smallest detail of their thought process or their actions.

McGregor also gradually reveals secrets and revelations about the characters. It's very well managed and, as a writer myself, I marveled at his skill.

The pace of writing actually reflects the village life that this book is set around. I grew up in a village and I really recognised the general overview of village life; everyone knowing everyone else, community life focused around seasonal events (like harvest festival) and the village squabbles and politics, but then you scratch the surface and there are more secrets and depth.

The characters in Reservoir 13 are all interesting. At first some seem like typical village characters; the patriarch farmer, the meddling middle-aged woman and the bored teenagers. But McGregor fleshes them out and gradually reveals more about them and they become unique people that you're invested in.
McGregor dips in and out of their lives and shows how they grow and change over the thirteen years, touching on major life events as well as the everyday routines. It's sort of dramatic yet peaceful at the same time, he really captures how life carries on in a small community.

The writing, while fast, is beautiful and it is often focused around nature, the way country life is.

"The summer had been low with cloud but in September the skies cleared and the days were berry-bright and the mud hardened into ridges in the lanes."

I sped through this book and actually had to ration myself as I didn't want to finish it too fast. I suspect this speedy writing style won't be for everyone though. There are so many characters and the skimming prose can be a bit confusing at times.

Sometimes I felt McGregor rushed over what I thought were quite big plot points. Also, the ending left me with a lot more questions, so if you like everything to be tied up neatly Reservoir 13 may frustrate you.

However, give it a go, it's something a bit different and I really loved it.

My Rating: 4/5

I received a digital copy of Reservoir 13 via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the author and publisher.
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13 year Rebecca, or Bex, or Becky Shaw goes missing over New Years from a small village in the Peak District area. She had been staying in a rented holiday cottage with her parents over the New Year period. Search teams, emergency services and volunteers relentlessly look for her up the hills, rivers, cloughs, streams, valleys, moors and reservoirs, but to no avail. She just appears to have vanished. The media appears in full force, following the search teams, appeals, and the press conferences the young girls parents hold. When none of these bear fruition, a reconstruction is staged. An appeal is raised for a driver of a red van. But again, nothing. She just appears to have vanished. 

This isn't a who-dunnit crime novel full of suspense and action. This is a quietly beautifully written novel, that draws you into the life of the village and its residents over a 14/15 year period. How the villagers react and cope with the girls disappearance, and the dark shadow looming over them of her unknown whereabouts. 

However, normal life slowly starts to resume and the rhythms of life take over. Relationships start and fail, people move away and new people arrive, businesses struggle, farmers go about their business, secrets are uncovered, the wildlife hibernates and reawakens as the seasons change and roll around - life goes on. 

The book isn't told from a specific characters perspective. It is more an "all seeing eye / omnipotent" narrative - an ensemble of different characters - of watching how a small village slowly starts getting back into life's usual routines and cycles, as the years pass and the seasons and landscapes ebb and flow. 

If you enjoy fast paced books filled with action, this probably won't be for you. It is a gently ebbing book, filled with the poignancy of the cycles of life and death. It is a book to savour; to read slowly and absorb the beautiful descriptions of nature. The writing is haunting and the lives of the residents, whom we come to feel we know, will linger with you long after you finish reading the book. 

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK & 4th Estate for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, in return for an honest and unbiased review.  

*I will post my review on Goodreads and Amazon on the 6th of April
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At first i was utterly bewildered by this story, as i had mistakenly expected more of a mystery with investigation and eventual solution than this diary of daily life, building and unfurling across the days, months, seasons and years that it actually is.  My sense of needing a more traditional start, middle and ending didn't fade, but my appreciation of what I was reading grew and grew.

It is beautifully, beautifully, written.  The precise use of language, the rhythm of the words, the curling, rolling of syntax and semantics, revelation and repetition to create a sense of time and, stunningly, of timelessness.  While the detail of people's lives changes - age, technology, health and happiness - the rhythm of life dictated by the seasons and the landscape in which these people live goes as it always has.  From the annual well dressing to the arrival of yoga, we see the interweaving of tradition with modernity; from the annual arrival of fox and badger cubs to births and deaths of our human character we see to the core of life, with all else merely dressing.

And through it all, the disappearance of a 13 year old girl and the impact this has on those who live through it and with it for the years that flow past after she has gone.

This is not the sort of book i pick up as a rule, but I found myself unable to put it down, as i drifted through gentle, evocative prose that brings to life a very English village at a period when so much is changing, yet remains the same.
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This is a 'stream of consciousness' novel. The knowledge of the trivia and minutiae of everyday life in a rural community skips from the pen of the author, yet there is no grammatically defined punctuation or paragraphing involved. There are no defining parameters so that you are introduced to the scene and things happen but are not resolved; the mystery is centred around a missing child but we are no wiser at the end of the book as to what happened to her. In some ways, it is a disturbing experience to read this book, yet it has its pleasureable moments. I believe that responses to this novel will be very individual; some will enjoy the read, others not.
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This is the first novel that I have read by this author and I loved it. This is less a novel about crime and more a reflective meditation of the flow and rhythms of nature, the lives and actions of characters throughout a period of years. It is a story of ordinariness, the reality of how life is in the country and delivered with understated prose. I could not help but be moved by the narrative and enchanted by the poetic and lyrical writing.

It is set in a village in the Peak District and is ostensibly about the disappearance of a 13 year old girl, Rebecca or Becky, on a walk in the hills with her parents on New Year's Eve. This hits the village hard, police and emergency services are called. For a while, things come to a abrupt halt, search parties are organised, they look everywhere they can think of but all to no avail. There is talk and suspicions are aired. The Vicar endeavours to ease the travails of the congregation. However, life cannot come to a standstill because of the enormity of the happening and its impact on people. So there is a subtle recalibration with a focus on what actually happens in a community and nature. There are people coming and going, school, love, births, death, jobs to be done, secrets and betrayal. The ongoing cycle of the seasons, the landscape, the power of nature, wildlife and the birds. The elements of Rebecca and her impact on others are interwoven in the story.

This is a richly detailed and observational novel rooted in the circle of life, death and nature through the years. It's a slow and absorbing read which may not appeal to readers who prefer a fast paced, action driven read. There is a beat, rhythms and refrains in the prose that dictate a slower reading pace, a necessity, I feel, to take in the beautiful descriptions and writing. An excellent and profound read. Highly recommended. Thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.
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I loved this book.   As the years pass in a Northern England village some things change, some things stay the same and some things fight to do neither.   McGregor's short sentence poetic writing captures the rhythms of village life, whether that is human, animal or plant life.   The story spans over a decade - is it about a 13 year old girl who goes missing or is it about how that event impinges on the lives of those in the village where she disappeared? Or is it a tale to show the multiple ways in which life goes on after tragedy?   I was happy to read of the recurring events in village life which tried to tie people together: the spring dance, the well dressing, the annual cricket match, the harvest festival, mischief night, the village pantomime, events which often in fact  resulted in pushing people further apart.   I was even happier to read of the ways in which nature continued despite human intervention - the foxes, badgers, heron and butterflies, and the ways in which the characters continued despite human intervention also: well done to Susanna and Ruth; rooting for Richard and Cathy; loving Su and Austin and the twins - subtle allusions to rural racism were well placed and empathy for Jane, the vicar.   The missing girl is a thread in this tale, a thread which subtly pulls at people in unexpected ways, so when the young people of the village go to University 5 years later, for example, they are all immediately questioned about the missing girl by their peers as soon as it is known they come from that village.   Village life may seem to be idyllic to the outsider but very close to the surface are all the usual human failings and this village is a microcosm of 21st century Western life.   In a village however it is much harder to keep any secrets hidden and there is frequently an unnamed all seeing eye in the book who comments on what is going on: eg Tom and Ashleigh were seen walking out together; the girl's father was seen again ---
I will be recommending this book to friends and returning to it myself to read again for both the beautiful descriptions of nature and the inter-connectedness of the characters over time.   I will also now be reading McGregor's earlier works as his writing moved and impressed me.
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Reservoir 13

by

Jon McGregor


	A small community is stunned when a thirteen year old girl, Rebecca, goes missing.  On a regular visit to the area with her parents she disappears while accompanying them on a walk.  They look round and she is gone. 
	A real grabber of an opening cleverly drew me in immediately and I looked forward to a thrilling read from this highly respected writer. \With imagination he  portrays the search party as they walk the moors and the hillside with varying reactions.  Some are talking just to break the silence and disguise their anxiety while others hold forth, certain she will soon be found, having possibly taken a wrong turn or slipped off the paths.  Her description is accurate with a clear knowledge of what she was wearing.  But the visibility is poor due to the mist, while above the whirr of the helicopter blades adds to he tension.
	Time moves on at village pace with the writer skillfully showing the passing of the years with descriptions of the changing seasons linked to the weather, the flowers and nature.  Annual Village events are included as they vary from year to year. Rebecca’s parents are shadows, walking quietly along the paths, a reminder of their loss.  As the seasons fluctuate so do relationships.  
	Some of the teenagers remember Rebecca and there are hints she had made some friends on her visits especially with the teenage boys but there is nothing conclusive.  Gradually she features less and less in conversations but is never forgotten. 
	Ten years of life in the village are described in poetic and descriptive prose. 	But little else happens and I found it less of a story and more like a nature diary with little to excite the reader.
	The writer’s skill is searingly apparent but the story lacked a bit of spice as far as I was concerned and no amount of lyrical writing could make up for that.
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The short sentence structure makes the story seem urgent and tense at the start, but without variation it just descends into monotony. This had the feel more of a stream of consciousness rather than a novel, with a very wide cast that was, at times, difficult to keep tabs on, and as the years mount up, some of the yearly events are described almost identically to elsewhere in the book. The final point of frustration was the lack of definitive conclusion. The author could have just stopped writing at any point in the timeline as there was no definitive ending to the tale. Not one for me, I'm afraid.
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Beautiful prose with everything left to the readers imagination
New Year’s Eve and 13 year old tourist Rebecca disappears whilst on a walk on the hills with her parents.  How this incident affects the community in the ensuing years is told against the backdrop of the changing seasons and ongoing daily lives of the villagers.
The storytelling ebbs and flows like the river through the village, touching the lives and baring the souls of the villagers.  Secrets are slowly uncovered and dormant passions ignited.
This is a novel to be savoured; each sentence peels another skin away; each word is carefully chosen.  It is a novel which allows the reader to become immersed in the ways of the characters and never to let them go; a novel which remains with the reader long after the last page has been read; a novel which richly deserves accolades.
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Reservoir 13 looks at village life in the years following the mysterious disappearance of a young girl but if you're looking for a thriller which ties the loose ends together and finds the girl then I'm afraid you need to look elsewhere. Instead this is a beautifully crafted look at village life and the way the life of the villagers is affected both directly and indirectly by the hunt for the girl. This is a book to be savoured as it switches rapidly between characters and the seasons, read it too quickly and you'll struggle to follow what's happening, read it slowly and you can get a real feel for the characters and their lives. The dialogue and action is limited but still McGregor manages to portray some very real and interesting personalities in his book. It's the first one I've read by him but it certainly won't be the last.
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Amazing. An absolute joy to read. Like an extended, more intricate Under Milkwood, we meet many and varied characters from a rural village and become entwined in their lives.
The story opens with the disappearance of a 13 year old girl. The villagers join the search but no trace is found. We then follow the lives of the villagers over the next few years, with the girl's continued absence adding a sort of brooding tension as we wait to discover what has happened to her.
Meanwhile the village, flora, fauna and seasons march on to their own internal rhythms.  Relationships are made and broken, children are born, villagers die. Well-dressing, bonfire night, Christmas come around again. Nothing much changes, nothing is the same.
The haunting, poetic quality of the prose is outstanding. Every word, every phrase seems to be individually honed to convey exactly the desired effect.
Definitely a book to read and  re-read. Stunning !
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Here is a review by DianeAlice: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1936893314
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A beautifully written book which starts with the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl staying on holiday in a Peak District village. This is not, though, a crime novel. The book focuses on the lives of village residents in the years that follow. Some leave, others arrive; people pair and unpair; crime occurs, but nothing very violent. Each chapter covers a year in the life of the village, with a strong sense of place and some good nature description. Chapters unfold in a succession of long paragraphs, frequently running to more than a page, filled with sentences which have a poet's sense of rhythm. Often within the same paragraph the focus moves from one village resident to another, giving a breathless feel. In most of them appears the refrain "The missing girl's name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex," and the disappearance haunts the whole book. There is plenty of emotion, but it is understated, often left to be inferred. This is a beautiful, gentle and haunting book with a perpetually elegiac feel.
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I cannot give a full review without spoiling the end for those who might enjoy it. Suffice it to say I was very disappointed. The best I can say about it that it interwove the stories of the villagers in a rural setting over several years in a realistic manner. Whether you enjoy this and the numerous descriptions of the passing seasons will depend on the type of person you are.
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When I started reading this book I found it an interesting way to read an account of the tragedy. However as the pages turned I became board with the year in, year out tale of the somewhat sketchy characters. If we had been able to get to know the people featured in more depth, perhaps I could have become engaged but I never felt that I got beyond them being supporting roles. Disappointing.
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'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.
 

*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.*
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Reservoir 13 was a gentle lilt of a book, opening windows into the lives of the community who live near the reservoir. It beautifully marks the passing of the years, since a girl disappeared. I adored the marking of the passing of those years with the repetition of "midnight when the year turned".
The character's stories were engaging and warming. I very enjoyed that there were no central characters, simply a community whose lives we dip in and out of. It very much reflects the transience of life itself.
The writing style is beautiful, fluid and soft. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of nature such as the fox cubs in the beech wood.
This book is so much more than I thought it would or even could be. It's a very reflective piece, one that somehow describes the fragility of life, the inevitable passing of time, without being dark or depressing. Such a refreshing read and one I will return to.
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