Thursday, February 01, 2007

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

I am sure I have mentioned in this blog before about my adoration for Jon McGregor's stunning debut novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. I mention it again because I see that a new edition of the book has been published this year. I came across it purely by chance, as I was looking for a novel by Tim Lott whose Rumours of a Hurricane is an excellent read particularly as a good deal of it is set in Milton Keynes. In the end I didn't buy either of these books - I opted for Philip Roth's The Human Stain.

Anyhows I am digressing.

So, seeing McGregor's book in an attractive new cover and some additional blurb on the cover from the publishers, I did the one thing which I always hate everyone else doing, I blocked up the aisle, absorbing myself again in McGregor's wonderful prose. Moreover I was engaged by the new introduction that has been written for the book and a section at the back, which poses questions about the novel, the idea being that these can form the basis of a discussion in a reading group. Just reading those few bits brought flooding back all the wonderful things about this book and made me question it again.

I've read If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things twice at least, possibly three times and each time I have come away with something new. I've seen the characters through fresh eyes each time and different parts have caught my attention. What remains true is that I think this is a stunning piece of modern fiction. It is complex in structure, unusual in its style and imaginative. What is so fascinating is the rhythm of the words, not really like conventional prose at all. Reading McGregor's book feels different to a normal novel and better for it.

I also like the way that he elevates the everyday into something magical. The mundane becomes remarkable and the characters although they remain deliberately anonymous have such fascinating and beautifully moving stories. That is what sticks out for me. The fact that even in the street where we live there is so much we don't know, all the drama, the highs and lows of each life. All the remarkable things that ordinary people do each day.

And the book has a quite shattering climax. McGregor deliberately slows the pace as he tells in vivid detail the final tragedy. It changes the perspectives of everything else that happens on that nameless day at the end of summer. Even in the midst of the events that change everything, McGregor observes how life in the anonymous city continues just as normal. While the central characters at the centre of the book are changed forever, the heartbeat of the city doesn't pause.

I'd recommend this book whole heartedly and indeed McGregor's second novel, So Many Ways to Begin, which adopts a similar style. I might even buy If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things again, just so that I can have the new version on my shelf!

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