Reservoir 13 — Jon McGregor

This wonderful novel opens on New Year’s Day, and a girl has gone missing: the whole village has turned out to search for her. It seems that we are in for a missing person mystery, or possibly a whodunit. As days go by we meet some of the inhabitants of the village and learn about their own stories. There is also a lot about the mundane happenings of village life, and a lot about the natural world of plants and animals too as the days turn to weeks and months.

Eventually it’s new year again, and of course a lot of things happen again – people go through their winter and holiday routines, and nature goes through its own cycles. We find out more about the villagers and their relationships. And so it goes through the years, with the girl’s disappearance constantly in the background.

I love the way this is written – it’s mostly just bare descriptions of what happens, in small and large scales, whether it’s trees growing, pheasants hatching, or people having a conversation. It’s a very simple style, but over the years it builds up a full picture of life in the village; the small children we meet in the first chapters have grown up by the end, and I felt as if I knew them. It seemed a shame to finish the book, though I see McGregor has written a sequel of sorts so I will have to track that down soon too.

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