Sunday, 25 March 2018

...if nobody speaks of remarkable things...

... is a 2002 novel by Jon Mcgregor.

I picked it up because I'd heard his name and heard of his 2017 prizewinner, 'Reservoir 17'.  I'll read that next, just ordered a copy,

but back to ...remarkable things... 
“This is ecstatic writing..” said the TLS reviewer of this book and they are exactly right.

This is a Breughel painting of a story, set in a street in a Northern English university town. The writing seems straight from the mind in free flow, freefall even, it reads as uncensored, unedited, unaltered and I hope this is so. When the ideas, the words just pour from the mind and onto the page and keep coming and keep coming it is a kind of ecstasy. Most writers will then take it apart, edit, adjust, re-arrange into something more conventional, more deliberately structured. More ordinary. This book is extraordinary. It’s not perfect, it is remarkable. I will read it again once I’ve got my breath back.

That's how I feel about the quality of the writing, as a writer myself. I'd like to think non-writers can enjoy the book just as much, it isn't a difficult book. I'm sure I would have loved it 30 years ago before I considered myself a writer. It's a rolling wave of a book, carrying you along for almost it's whole length with the anticipation, then breaking suddenly and shockingly, even though you were expecting a shock, before dumping you on the beach, feeling forlorn that the ride is over.

The storyline holds so many characters, few with names, but their lives on a street during one summer day are so empathetically detailed that you feel you know them all: 

The little boy with a red scooter who travels joyfully and up and down the pavement of the short street. The graduate student slowly and methodically packing his somewhat bizarre collection of possessions before moving to another student house. The married woman whose resident in-laws have gone out for the day and who goes to bed with her husband for a short joyful interlude  while their children play cricket in the street. The mischievous twins who spy on a neighbour doing his exercises in the nude... There are students, young couples, families, old couples... all play a role in the narrative. 

If I mentioned all the characters I would write another book. One girl student's narrative weaves through the others in first person and leaves the short, one day timeline, although all the observations are not hers. This was the one part of the book which I found slightly less satisfactory, her story was perfectly good, I just found it distracted from the ride. However it tied in with the ending. 

I won't say more, no spoilers. I love this book! Do read it if you haven't.

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