Sunday, 31 May 2009

21. Jon McGregor - If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

I was persuaded to read this book by two friends as we all wanted to discover the nature of the ‘terrible event’ alluded to on the back cover. However, I don’t feel I drew the short straw in having to do the actual reading - it was a breathless delight I would have hated to miss.

It’s a little difficult to tell you what the book is ‘about’ as few of the characters are named. Basically, there are two narrative strands. The first is tied to one street of a city on a hot, summer’s day. There’s an injured man caring for his daughter. Students are returning from a party. A young man reaches for eye-drops. A family gets breakfast. The characters are identified as ‘the man from number twenty-two’ and, at first, it was hard to remember who was who. I soon realised that who lived in what house wasn’t really important though and found my way through the text by virtue of each character’s unique identifier – age, moustache, illness.

The second strand visits one of the street’s residents at a point in the future. She has moved away. She’s lost touch with friends. She’s lost. And it’s really impossible to say more without spoiling your reading – and I do heartily recommend that you read this book for yourself.

Mr McGregor’s writing is beautiful and reminded me of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient in tone and pacing. I seemed to float from one scene to the next, from one narrative to the next as he drew me inexorably onwards to that terrible conclusion. There is a ‘terrible event’. But you will have to find out about it for yourself.

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