“There were dreams of her walking home. Walking beside the motorway, walking across the moor, walking up out of one of the reservoirs, rising from the dark grey water with her hair streaming and her clothes draped with long green weeds.”
Reservoir 13 is a beautifully crafted (seven years in the making!) novel and it kind of left me akin to living in a less gruesome episode of Midsomer Murders – or some other quaint country English town – the Peak District to be precise. I can’t quite explain the cleverness of McGregor’s writing, how lyrical and soothing his words are, so subtle yet lucid. However, it’s definitely not for everyone, so if you rather fancy: slow, intimate portraits of landscape and people, affecting descriptions of the passage of time, endearing country life and zero plot – this is probably for you.
The initial premise of the novel is that of a missing girl, however, the story becomes much more than this as McGregor weaves intimate portraits of the towns inhabitants over the next ten years. There are births and deaths, new-comers arrive, old-timers return, secrets are hidden and revealed. Each story unfolds minutely with the seasons, rivers overflowing, trees in bloom, the local allotment weary with produce.
“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. At the allotments the main crop of potatoes was lifted, the black earth turned over and the fat yellow tubers tumbling into the light.”
Reservoir 13‘s structure is brilliant, each chapter beginning with the new year, and through the seasons we watch both the land grow and people change (or not) over time. The way McGregor writes his passing of time is both eloquent and exquisite. I’m not sure I am able to explain it, but it was infectious and integrating, I was immersed within a community. Yet more engaging than any of the characters was the township, the village, the landscape itself. I think perhaps the sheer beauty of Reservoir 13 is owing to the village, to landscape itself. The landscape swallows a young girl, and it then in turn begins to gnaw away and mold like clay all the inhabitants of the area. It has always done this, and it always will. In short, “landscape is a character in our lives, as much as the people around us who we know and don’t know.” *
“The missing girls 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.”
Reservoir 13 is an exquisite, rather brilliant, insanely clever novel. I’ve never read anything like it and now I want to read more by this author. FUN FACT: McGregor is writing a series of short-stories as a prequel to the novel due for broadcast via radio later in the year!
4 out of 5 stars for me! How did you get on with this one or with McGregor as an author? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
“In May the days broke open with light. Breakfast was eaten under the spell of clear sunlight, and tea prepared to the sound of children playing outside.”
* from an Interview with Jon McGregor – http://themanbookerprize.com/news/jon-mcgregor-interview