Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor reviewed

Reservoir 13 Book Cover Reservoir 13
Jon McGregor
HarperCollins UK
April 6, 2017

From the award-winning author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and Even the Dogs. Reservoir 13 tells the story of many lives haunted by one family's loss.

Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.

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

The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must.

As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.

Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.

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 stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor is about the aftermath of the disappearance of a 13 year old girl while on holiday. It is set in a small village to the east of and near Manchester. It is on the edge of the moors and has reservoirs nearby. The area is searched looking for the girl. The village gradually starts returning to its normal seasonal rhythms although the missing girl is not forgotten.

As time goes by weeks turn into months and then into years. This becomes the tale of the people who live there or are associated with the village and the countryside around. The stories about the people vary from trivial to the more profound including separation and getting together, bankruptcy and farming. Among all this the story returns time and again to the disappearance. Was someone local involved? Did the local children of her age know more about it?

There is a real charm to this book. The gentle changing of the seasons and happenings in the village have a pleasant rhythm to them. This really is a book to take some time over and savour. It is descriptive and thoughtful. The constantly recurring/underlying theme is the missing girl however this is really only a vehicle for the stories of the village. I did find the writing rather disjointed and awkward. A paragraph may well equate to a month and will cover quite a number of topics at times. Equally some may find the fairly large number of characters hard to keep up with too. Readers of Jon McGregor’s work will be pleased with it I think.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review