Reservoir 13 (McGregor)

Reservoir 13 
Jon McGregor, 2017
304 pp.

Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing.

Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace.

Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed.

As the seasons unfold and the search for the missing girl goes on, there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together and those who break apart.

There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.

An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a tragedy refuse to subside. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Norfolk, England, UK
Education—Bradford University
Awards—Betty Trask Prize; Somerset Maugham Award; International Dublin Literary Award
Currently—lives in Norwich, UK

Jon McGregor, a British novelist and short story writer, was born in Bermuda and raised in Norwich and Thetford, Norfolk, in the U.K. He studied for a degree in Media Technology and Production at Bradford University.

After moving to Nottingham (where he still lives), McGregor wrote his first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, while living on a narrowboat. The novel won the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award. It was also nominated for the 2002 Booker Prize — he was only 26 at the time.

McGregor's second and fourth novels were longlisted for the Booker Prize (2006 and 2017), and his third won the International Dublin Literary Award (2012) — the same year The New York Times labeled him a "wicked British writer."

Currently, McGregor is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham, England, where he edits The Letters Page, a literary journal in letters. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2010.

2002 - If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
2006 - So Many Ways to Begin
2010 -  Even the Dog
2012 - This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You (Stories)
2017 - Reservoir 13
2017 - The Reservoir Tapes (Stories)
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 12/18/2017.)

Book Reviews
Jon McGregor has revolutionized that most hallowed of mystery plots: the one where some foul deed takes place in a tranquil English village that, by the close of the case, doesn’t feel so tranquil anymore.… McGregor’s writing style is ingenious.
Maureen Corrigan - Washington Post

Disturbing, one-of-a-kind.… Most books involving crime and foul play provide the consolation of some sort of resolution. But Mr. McGregor's novel, which was long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize, shows how life, however unsettlingly, continues in the absence of such explanation.
Tom Nolan - Wall Street Journal

Jon McGregor has been quietly building a reputation as one of the outstanding writers of his generation since 2002, when he became the youngest writer to be longlisted for the Booker prize.… Reservoir 13 is an extraordinary achievement; a portrait of a community that leaves the reader with an abiding affection for its characters, because we recognise their follies and frailties and the small acts of kindness and courage that bind them together.
Observer (UK)

He excels at charting how, over the years, relationships fray, snap or twine together.… There are images Seamus Heaney might have coveted.… Making clarity gleam with poetry, McGregor again highlights the remarkable in the everyday.
Sunday Times (UK)

Even by the standards of his mature work, McGregor’s latest novel is a remarkable achievement.… Fluid and fastidious, its sparing loveliness feels deeply true to its subject. There are moments, as in life, of miraculous grace, but no more than that.… [A] humane and tender masterpiece.
Irish Times

Award-winning Jon McGregor defies expectations with this superbly crafted and mesmerizingly atmospheric portrait of an unnamed village.… Unsentimental and occasionally very funny, this is a haunting, beautiful book.
Daily Mail (UK)

McGregor's book achieves a visionary power.… [H]e has written a novel with a quiet but insistently demanding, even experimental form. The word "collage" implies something static and finally fixed, but the beauty of Reservoir 13 is in fact rhythmic, musical, ceaselessly contrapuntal.… A remarkable achievement [and a] subtle unraveling of what we think of as the conventional project of the novel.
James Wood - The New Yorker

This is above all a work of intense, forensic noticing: an unobtrusively experimental, thickly atmospheric portrait of the life of a village which, for its mixture of truthfulness and potency, deserves to be set alongside the works of such varied brilliance as Ronald Blythe’s Akenfield, Jim Crace’s Harvest, and Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.
Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Reservoir 13 leaves the reader feeling mesmerised, disconcerted and with senses oddly heightened, as if something had walked over their own grave.

(Starred review.) [U]nforgettable.… McGregor portrays individuals and the community as a whole, across seasons, in mundane scenes and moments of heartbreak, cruelty, and guilt.… This is an ambitious tour de force … a singular and haunting story.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.)  [E]xtraordinary, and while the narrative technique is initially wearing in the way village life can be—the monotony, the knowledge of everybody's business—it coheres remarkably into a knowable, comforting, ultimately compelling world.  —Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA
Library Journal

(Starred review.) McGregor masterfully employs a free, indirect style that… seamlessly blends narrative, dialogue, and wonderfully observant, poetic musings.… [The] novel’s subtly devastating impact … imparts wisdom about the tenuous and priceless gift of life.

(Starred review.) In simple, quiet, and deliberate prose, McGregor describes the passing months. The seasons change…. "It went on like this. This was how it went on."… A stunningly good, understated novel told in a mesmerizing voice (A best book of the year).
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Reservoir 13 … then take off on your own:

SPOILER ALERT: Proceed at your own risk if you've not finished the book!

1. The Guardian (in the UK) asks a question in the opening of its Reservoir 13 review, which is this: "Why is it always a girl who's missing?" Care to talk about that? Would the loss of a boy have the same attavistic tug that a girl engenders?

2. What were your expectations at the onset of the book? Were you certain that Rebecca would be found?

3. How does author Jon McGregor raise our expectations and build suspense? Someone cuts away the river weeds. Children ask about a boarded up old led mine. A school boiler house is destroyed. What were your feelings as each these events was underway?

4. Whom did you suspect?

5. What about all the villagers who lives are glimpsed at — Geoff the potter, Sally and her marriage and dangerous brother, Irene and her special needs son, Jackson the farmer? Do you get to truly know any of them? Or does the author keep us at a distance, like a distant hawk circling above? Do you find any one of the characters particularly sympathetic? As the years passed, were you caught up in their stories?

6. Is this novel a murder mystery at all? What is it? By it's end, does the book shed any light on the first question posed in this set of discussion questions: why is it always a little girl who goes missing?

7. How does Rebecca's disappearance affect the villagers? How does its impact change over time?

8. Were you engaged by Reservoir 13 … or bored? Were you impatient ... or irritated? Is there a payoff in the end? What was your experience while reading the novel, and how did you feel at its end? Would you recommend the book to others?

(Resources by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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