Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Books – if nobody speaks of remarkable things, by jon mcgregor

(On the cover of the book there are no capital letters. I thought I’d honour McGregor’s choice.)

I refer you all to the first paragraph of my review of Life After Life, in which I ramble on about those books that are so fabulous and thoroughly amazing that you want everybody ever in the world to read them. And yes, this is another one of those books. if nobody speaks of remarkable things is truly on of the best books I have ever read, and certainly the best book I have read in the last year. Or perhaps two years. Since whenever it was I read Ishigruo’s Remains of the Day.

I have no words to explain the sheer brilliance of this book, but I can and will rant about how much I liked it.  if nobody speaks of remarkable things is a novel about the ordinary and the extraordinary. The books centres on one single street over one single day, in which normality is shattered by an awful event. Simultaneously we get the story of one of the street’s residents, looking back on that day from a few years on. It is a portrait of the normal existence of one street, and of the effects of tragedy, but it is also so much more. It is also a novel about death, family, friendship, love, life. I’m amazed at how this book encompasses so many snapshots of different bits of life in one single novel.

That McGregor manages to create such strong and moving characters by naming so few is incredible. Somehow the young man from number eighteen, the elderly couple from number twenty, the man with the scared hands, the twin boys, the girl with the short blonde hair and the little square glasses – all of these people come to life in details, in their actions, their movements, without ever being given the solid identifier of a name. And yet we recognise all the residents of the street as they appear again and again, moving in and out of view for the reader. It’s an incredible achievement.