Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 20, 2017

Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor

I wanted to read this book as soon as I read the review at A Life in Books so I asked my library to buy it and they did.  #BigBouquetForKingstonLibrary!

It is the achingly sad story of the disappearance of a teenage girl in a hill community in the heart of England.  She was there on holiday, and she simply vanished.  We have all heard stories like this in the media, and we know that these unsolved disappearances resonate long, long after the event.  The names of Eloise Worledge, the Beaumont Children and Linda Stilwell are known to everyone my age, and never forgotten.

And yet…  the saddest moment in this story comes when, years after the disappearance, one of the characters sees an item of the missing girl’s clothing, and doesn’t recognise it for what it is.

The story is written not as a crime novel nor from the parents’ perspective but as a chronicle of how life goes on, as it must.  The villagers are good people: they turn out for the search, and they are respectful, cancelling long anticipated events and time-honoured traditions because they feel it would be inappropriate to hold them.  But as the narrative progresses we see the endless natural cycle of life with the birth and death of wildlife and the progress of the seasons, and although they are haunted by the disappearance people grow older and make changes in their lives as people do.   Amongst the other narratives, the story traces the growth and development of the teenagers who knew the girl, who is always referred to in a kind of refrain, as Rebecca Shaw, sometimes known as Becky or Bex.  These teenagers are the ones who knew her best, though they didn’t know her very well at all.  So there is no real sense of her as a person – which is what happens when a person becomes a ‘case’ to the police and to the media, who rustle up renewed interest at anniversaries which occur over the 13 year span of the novel.

Despite its sober storyline, this is a beautiful book which becomes impossible to put down.  Do read Susan’s review – it’s irresistible.

Author: Jon McGregor
Title: Reservoir 13
Publisher: Fourth Estate UK (Harper Collins) 2017
ISBN: 9780008204860
Source: Kingston Library (who got this book in for me, because I implored them to!)

Available from Fishpond: Reservoir 13


Responses

  1. I’m a huge fan of Jon McGregor, his Dublin Literary Award winner “Even the Dogs”, whilst difficult shows how controversial subjects can be treated compassionately. His editorial of the “Letters Page” is innovative & the boxed collection of facsimile letters is a beautiful publication.

    I have a copy of this book on my TBR pile (purchased before my self imposed book buying ban) and will be getting to it shortly, I’m anticipating another great read.

  2. You’ve made my day, Lisa. Delighted that you enjoyed this beautifully expressed book, and not only that but have got your library to stock it so may convert more readers to McGregor’s sublime writing. Thanks for your kind words and for the link. I hope you’ll read his other novels.

    • I have read Even the Dogs, which I thought was brilliant writing about an underclass without being patronising https://anzlitlovers.com/2010/06/14/even-the-dogs-by-jon-mcgregor/ but I know there is more to explore:)
      But I do want to thank you again, it’s so good to find books through the magic of the internet and the wonderful bloggers who give their time and expertise to share their thoughts:)

  3. I will follow up Lisa as a bit inclined towards Irish and Scottish writers both past and present. Another writer that does this genre well is Denise Mina a Glaswegian whose latest is on the infamous Peter Manual a serial killer who committed his horrors not far from where I grew up where his notoriety still has an effect on that community and on me even after six decades.Good fiction is such a powerful medium to speak of these events and remind us of the strangeness of the human condition.

    • Ooh, you’re a braver reader than me, I never read true crime, it freaks me out.

  4. This sounds like it’d be a god read. I’ve seen a couple of his books at my local library so they may get this one in as well.


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