Book review: Reservoir 13

Jon McGregorReservoir 13 by Jon McGregor is a thoughtful, intelligent telling of what happens to a village when a person goes missing. Told after the event, it brings a new angle of understanding to the post-event trauma of those on the outer circles of tragedy.

A girl goes missing in a village surrounded by moors, caves and reservoirs. ‘The girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex.’ At no point do we hear the viewpoint of the girl, her parents, or the investigating police. Slowly the story unfolds as we are told the life of the village through the years after it happened by an omniscient narrator, disconnected from the action.

I loved the way McGregor recounts the daily comings and goings of the village, the farmers, the vicar, the schoolchildren. The rhythm of life and nature is mesmeric, the message is ‘life goes on’. Love affairs start and end, babies are born as are lots of sheep, cows are milked, allotments tended. The village sits within the natural world of peaks, woods and rivers and, sometimes only in a single sentence, we are told of the hatching of butterflies, the unfurling of new leaves, the water running beneath the bridge. The writing style is sparse and all the more beautiful for that. The action switches from one person’s life to the next, sometimes in a simple factual sentence such as ‘this happened’. But as the action moves from one local to another, the story is slowly, painstakingly pieced together of a village which struggles to leave behind the mystery of what happened to Rebecca/Becky/Bex.

At the beginning I was unsure how the story would unfold: murder, missing person, runaway teenager, abduction? It is this not knowing which casts a shadow over everyone in the village.

If you like this, try:-
‘Himself’ by Jess Kidd
‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin
‘The Museum of You’ by Carys Bray

‘Reservoir 13’ by Jon McGregor [UK: Fourth Estate] Buy at Amazon

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