If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
I have recently finished reading ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’ by Jon McGregor for book group. I had read this book once before several years ago. I couldn’t remember the story or the characters, all I did remember was that I enjoyed it and thought it was nicely written. I approached re-reading the book close to ten years on with excitement but also with some trepidation. Even though I was pretty sure I would enjoy it second time round, I was concerned that it would not live up to my expectations. Ten years ago I was reading a lot of American crime fiction and trashy horror novels; every now and then I would pick up a more contemporary, literary novel such as this. Since then my reading habits have changed, I still enjoy genre fiction but I would say that I mainly read, and enjoy contemporary fiction.
What I really like about this book is its structure and the way in which this structure drives the plot. The book is about an event on one particular day, this event is referred to but never explicitly discussed until the very end of the book and keeps the reader thinking throughout. As the reader goes through the book they are introduced to a wide range of characters, rarely named but associated with the number of the house they live at or maybe a personal feature. Although this can be difficult to keep up with, especially at the beginning of the book, I found that by the middle of the book I knew who exactly the author was referring too. I loved the characters, some in particular shine out from the others, their compassion and love they hold for others leaps from the pages and grabs your attention. Certain parts of the book struck a real emotional chord with me and I felt I really understood them and the situations they were in. By the end of the book I was holding my breath reading passages; I was genuinely concerned for the characters. The sense of imminency builds and builds as the book progresses and I read with a greater urgency to find out what was going to happen.
I am sure that not everyone will feel the same way as me about the book, not a lot happens, and this is not to everyone’s liking. Jon McGregor writes with an almost poetic touch throughout, some may find this a bit pompous, but I felt that he was trying to convey the beauty of the ordinary through the language. The very title of the book alludes to the view of seeing the remarkable things that happen every day, even when these remarkable things are regular every day events. The love of an elderly couple, the pain of a father and the secret desire of a young man are just parts of this novel that I fell in love with; but what I really fell in love with was the novel as a whole. Maybe I’ll wait ten more years and read it again.