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I loved Reservoir 13 but I'm really not sure why.

 

Do you know those letters that friends used to send at Christmas with all their news? The kind of hypnotic/soporific way all the news blends into one storyline, the banal and the significant presented with equal weight? Because that's pretty much what Reservoir 13 is, times thirteen.

 

Rebecca Shaw, a teenage girl, goes missing. Each chapter of the novel reports another year since her disappearance, depicting the life of the village and its surrounds. There are couplings, fights, feuds. There are foxes and fieldfares. There is a rhythm to the year's cycle, broken by the human action in the village and on the moors and around the 13 reservoirs that surround the village. Despite the passage of time, it is timeless. 

 

And as every year passes, the memory of Rebecca Shaw and her disappearance dim. But every couple of years, some trace of her turns up, often unnoticed. Children grow up. Marriages are made and broken. One of the villagers is naughty and goes to prison, then returns. There is nothing of any great consequence to the world, although the little pieces of nothing are enormous for those involved, for a while. People are born and people die. 

 

The novel is a masterpiece of holding multiple threads together, drip feeding them over time as matters progress and then letting them fade when they are done. Some of the lines run for years; some are over and done quickly. The characters feel real, the place feels real, the reader feels almost like God watching over it all. It really is spellbinding, even though it is so inconsequential. This is the bit that I cannot fathom: the writing is pedestrian and journalistic (almost Robinson in Space-like); the suspense is minimal; the plot is thin. So how and why did this get so much under my skin? 

 

I don't think this is the best book of 2017, but it must be quite close up there. It is unusual without being demonstrative. It's not quite like anything I have read before. 

 

*****

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I'm reading this just now, but I'm struggling with it.

 

I can see the beauty, but it's not holding my attention. My main problem is the sudden shifts in subject matter. The style is quite staccato with lots of short sentences and frequent non-sequiteurs. It demands a different type of attention, where as a reader I often can't relax into a paragraph. Some paragraphs do settle into a scene, but I find the frequent jumps off-putting. There are also lots of characters and I'm finding them hard to remember. It's probably not the book for me just now.

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On TBR pile. Weird thing is, I recently cleared out my bookshelves and found I have all of MacGregor's books and have precisely none of them. I must like the sound of them, and the covers, and yet the writing/subject puts me off...

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