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Janet

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

 

004-2009-Jan-11-IfNobodySpeaksofRem.jpg

 

Published in 2002, McGregor’s debut novel is a tale of suspense - of how a tragic event affects the lives of the people living in one street. The story alternates between present - the unnamed girl who was formerly resident on the street and was witness to the tragedy - and the past, where we see snapshots of all the residents on the day, including the girl, building up to the event.

 

The characters are largely anonymous throughout the novel which adds to the sense of detachment and helps to increase the feeling of foreboding. At times, the book feels rather mundane but at the same time, one wants to read on to find out what the tragedy is going to be. I did make a couple of guesses, one of which turned out to be correct, but it was as much about the build-up and the after effects as the incident itself.

 

The writing style is unlike anything I’ve read before - there are no speech marks, rather the ‘dialogue’ between characters goes like this:

 

He said are you alright then?

I said oh you know, I’m doing okay but could be better.

He said sorry to hear that

 

The book is full of rhetoric - similes and metaphors - there is plenty of enjambment which adds to the feeling of imminent doom. Reading this, I felt like I was back in A-level English Lit class!

 

Some things about the writing did annoy me. The use of ‘thank you’ throughout the novel (apart from one incident which I noticed where thank you was used) really grated on me. Similarly ‘carpark’ and ‘numberplate’ and plenty of other incidents of bad writing (or editing?) - but that’s probably me being a bit anally retentive!

 

This book is our January Bookworms’ choice and I’m certain there is going to be plenty of good discussion! Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Probably not, as I’m not sure the writing style would be to everyone’s taste!

 

6

Edited by Janet

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I tried reading this one a while back and couldn't get into it at all - I hated that nobody seemed to have names and the writing style drove me nuts! That said, I seem to be in a minority, as everyone else I've spoken to who has read it has enjoyed it. Perhaps if I'd managed to get to the end I might have felt differently, but I just couldn't get anywhere with it.

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I doubt I'd have finished it if it wasn't a Bookworms book. That said, when I finished it last night I couldn't stop thinking about it so it clearly made an impression on me.

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Awww I'm sad to see this book hasn't fared so well :D

 

As soon as I saw the title, I wanted it, it's just one of those titles that would be an indie film if it was a movie, like 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind' and so on. Titles can really grab me, and despite the not-so-great feedback here, I looked it up on Amazon and just had to have it, so it's been on my Wishlist since last year.

 

Ive finally bought and am reading it and personally I love it. I'll keep my direct comments about it for a review which I'll post here probably by tomorrow at the rate I'm going. But I think I'm going to be saying quite a few positive things :roll:

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Awww I'm sad to see this book hasn't fared so well :D

Ive finally bought and am reading it and personally I love it. I'll keep my direct comments about it for a review which I'll post here probably by tomorrow at the rate I'm going. But I think I'm going to be saying quite a few positive things :D

 

 

I read this a year or two ago and absolutely loved it! I enjoyed the style of writing and liked the fact it was "different" it left me thinking about it for a long time after finishing it. I`m glad at least 1 person here is enjoying it. :roll:

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Oh I'm glad to see someone did! I have my own thoughts about the writing style and why I like it but I'll put that will the rest of my thoughts when I've them gathered :D

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Review:

 

It was the title of this otherwise inconspicuous novel which first caught my eye - the nature of which led me to conclude it was about one of two things: either about something profound, or about mundanity and it's inherent profoundity about which so many people are jaded. It is repetition and constant exposure to 'everyday things' which makes people take them for granted. And it's the occasional exposure to a book like this which can make such people stop and view the world afresh, if only for a moment when they close it's covers.

 

"Remarkable Things" speaks from a distance with a style which allows no intimacy and great universality. Alternating between two threads of a story, one in first and one in third person, it's most noticeable attribute is the unusual punctuation, in that it features no speech marks of any kind. Even with a first person narrator it consists of, I said, oh, really? I said how do you know? He said he told me. He said I knew anyway. Admittedly I normally don't like styles like that. However in this context it seems somehow to add to the atmosphere - never directly attributing speech even to a first person narrator makes it feel as though there is a block, a distance, between what is being said and the mere observation of it which the reader is allowed. The other thing I found about it was that it made me read slowly in order to actually pick up who said what, and for me that was a nice touch, because it's the sort of book which should be read slowly and savoured. I liked the first thread, only loosely related to the second, it seemed arbitrary, and the choice of character seemed arbitrary, the kind of arbitrary involved in everyday life when terrible events happen and we want to know 'why?' but there is no answer, other than 'it's just so', and I particularly liked it for that.

 

The second thread is essentially a collection of details. It recounts the events of a a day on a street by recounting individual details, movements, thoughts, quirks, whims, the very breaths of several nameless families and friends. Each house is another angle, another story, another intersection of lives, another everyday irrelevance. The characters are endearing, quirky, stupid, sweet, likeable, unlikeable, imperfect and real. An elderly couple, students, small children, parents. What is told of their stories is in many cases is emotively accentuated by what is not said, what they cannot say, and it certainly is a poignant read. In this way the novel recounts a rather large picture, by blinkering you with a tight focus on the feel and taste and sound of each individual simplicity, by gathering moments like capturing them in photos and letting the bigger picture build itself up. Nothing is direct, nothing is crystal clear. It's founded in flux, more in a series of implications than confirmations. Implications we all see coming, whose ends we can deduce, because we've all seen them or heard them before. It's not an unpredictable book, but that's kind of the point. What I liked about this book is it's portrayal of the remarkable. What's remarkable in it? I know what I think. I think different people would say different things, but that too, is kind of the point.

 

9/10

 

P.S. The first four pages are the most beautifully romanticized view of mere existence in a city morning, and everybody on Earth should read them.

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read this about fourteen years ago, and enjoyed it very much. It was unlike anything I had read previously, and felt rather like reading a Breugal painting and, more recently, someone I know likened it to Hitchcock's "Rear Window".

 We are shown the detail of everyday occurrences in the lives led by the inhabitants of a small urban street while, unknown to them, events are leading up to an incident that will bring them up short. 

I found the slow build-up to the climax of the book quite hypnotic, and the false 'clues' that lead the reader to make several wrong guesses as to that climax were intriguing and enjoyable.

 

 

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I read this book years ago, chosen for the title. I remember enjoying the story, but unfortunately really didn't get on with the writing style. I found the dialogue in particular hard work to read.

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