Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

read by Matt Bates

A Guardian Book of the Year; a Financial Times Book of the Year; a TLS Book of the Year; an Observer Book of the Year; a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year; winner of the 2017 Costa Novel Award; longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.

This story of the lives haunted by one family’s tragic loss of a teenaged child in a rural English village has been praised to the skies by literary critics, popular critics and the general reader. The books is structured so that each paragraph is a month, each chapter a year, with one extra paragraph at year’s end. For thirteen years. It is slow, thoughtful, poetic. And anyone seeking a resolution to the disappearance will be disappointed. There is none. Which is, perhaps, the point of the whole exercise: often life just goes on. Things might fall apart for a few, but for everyone else life carries on in its infinite sameness.

Perhaps this is Beckett without the humour, Joyce without the wit. Perhaps there is a touch of the emperor’s new clothes: how can the cognoscenti be wrong, with their metropolitan nostalgia for a piece of Albion idyll? Have any critics given less than fulsome praise?

Narrator Matt Bates produces a great performance, but the nuances are better appreciated on the page. It is rather a flat read: uneventful, unremarkable. Impressed by all the acclaim, I am sure many readers and listeners will come away from Reservoir 13 thinking: ‘what is it I missed?’ Many a Christmas present will be left half read and forgotten.

Make up your own mind. 

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