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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon…
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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

by Jon McGregor

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1,185386,785 (3.86)36
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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
The book is set in modern London and interweaves throughout the lives of residents in the street, working it's way back to a disaster that's alluded to at the beginning of the book. But it just doesn't work for me on so many fronts.

For a start, there are far too many characters at play, many of whom never really take a proper place in the narrative, and it becomes very confusing as McGregor just refers to them by brief physical description and the number of house they live at. On a number of occasions I lost the trail and couldn't figure out who he was talking about, but it mattered little as they were of no consequence to the story. It was therefore very difficult to care much about any of these characters, on which premise the novel failed abjectly for me.

McGregor also switched between first person and third person, moving between one main narrator in the current period to a third person observation of the past, and it just didn't work. With so many house numbers and characters to remember, the protagonist who becomes the first person narrator in part of the book is unremarkable and referred to little when observed through the third person voice, therefore the connection with the first person account is lost.

The first person narrator is a young woman, but all through the novel I was conscious of a male writer trying to imagine what a woman thinks or how she acts. On this occasion the writer didn't manage to pull it off, and at times I had to keep reminding myself what sex the protagonist was.

Finally, there was the metaphor and simile overload. Dear goodness, it was toe curling at times.

'If nobody speaks of remarkable things' - well, no need to on this occasion. ( )
  AlisonY | Jan 29, 2015 |
McGregor's justifiably acclaimed debut is a poetic and beautifully written dissection of student life in a northern English city. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
this was a really frustrating read. i could see what mcgregor was trying to do, but it just didn't work for me. there were beautiful moments but the inconsistency of the prose and the excessive (and sometimes awful) use of simile and metaphor was distracting and, at times, painful to read. i knew where the story was headed before it got there, so i feel like this device - the slow reveal - wasn't successful. i also felt as though the voices for each of the characters - all residents on one section of a small street - were not distinct enough. the premise was interesting - one day in the life of a street, and its residents. but it is a big idea and i feel as though much was lost by using so may characters and residences.

julie myerson wrote a review in the guardian back in 2002 - it pretty much sums up my feelings exactly: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/aug/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview14
"This is a novel where the contrived metaphor, the struggling simile, the romantic reference all come first...Yes, this is a novel about how our lives are "paler and poorer" if we don't see "remarkable" things for what they are. And yes, it's a good and true idea. But, though you couldn't say this is a poor novel (there's a writerly energy here that suggests McGregor will go far), it would be hard to imagine a paler one, its lifeblood sucked out by a Virginia Woolfish adherence to the fey, the pretend, the fortuitously elegant." ( )
  DawsonOakes | Aug 25, 2014 |
Read during Winter 2003/2004

For Book Club. I'm still not quite sure what to make of this book. The style is very unusual; the events on an English street on one day told in a very long flashback style. One character tells most of the story, along with her current story. There is clearly a mystery event, alluded to at the start, but I began to think it would never happen when the whole plot twisted and turned in the most unpredictable way. It was fascinating but I'm not sure it would stand up to a second reading.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
McGregor's prose is elegant and lyrical. I would award If Nobody Speaks . . . 5 stars except that I am a bit suspicious of the ending. This is a novel of mirror images and parallels: There are three sets of male twins as well as two pairs of damaged hands. The novel tracks back and forth among “snapshots” of the comings and goings, both external and internal, of various residents on one street of a neighborhood in an unnamed English city and a first person account three years later by one of the young women who was a resident on that same street on what turns out to have been a fateful day. Although the jump cuts back and forth are at first confusing (characters are identified by street addresses and by idiosyncrasies of dress, physique and behavior), they are rich with closely observed physical and emotional detail. Indeed, the act of observation is itself a character in the novel: residents look or lean out of their windows to observe the goings on of their neighbors; and finally, it is an act of observation that precipitates the "remarkable event" alluded to throughout the novel. As readers, we also become observers, examining these characters as if viewing them under a microscope or through a telescope, and yet, we either don’t or can’t see everything about them; mysteries persist, even after all has supposedly been revealed. Our vision, although more comprehensive than that of any of the characters, remains imperfect. Perhaps even the author doesn’t or can’t know the whole story. What we get are glimpses, snapshots as it were, that, like the boy in #18, we collect in a jumble, a kind of anthropological and/or archaeological trove of miscellany that seems to point to something significant, but the importance of which may depend solely on our having looked in a certain direction at a particular moment, on having paid attention. All of which is beautifully written by McGregor. My only quibble has to do with the inclusion of what could be interpreted as a supernatural event at the end of the novel. On the other hand, one could (as I am wont to do) read the ending as not a supernatural mystery, but rather a mystery of coincidence, of accident, one allowed for by probability. "And there is an interruption in the way of things, a pause, something faint like the quivering flutter of a moth’s rain-sodden wings, something unexpected. Something remarkable . . . . And as these streets are traveled, in the time it takes for a hand to be clasped and unclasped, Shahid Mohammad Nawaz wakes gently, lifted through a gap in the way of things." (272,274)Hmmm.
( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0747561575, Paperback)

'This novel owes as much to poetry as it does to prose. Its opening, an invocation of the life of the city, is strongly reminiscent of Auden's Night Mail in its hypnotic portrait of industrialised society...An assured debut' Erica Wagner, The Times. On a street in a town in the North of England, ordinary people are going through the motions of their everyday existence - street cricket, barbecues, painting windows...A young man is in love with a neighbour who does not even know his name. An old couple make their way up to the nearby bus stop. But then a terrible event shatters the quiet of the early summer evening. That this remarkable and horrific event is only poignant to those who saw it, not even meriting a mention on the local news, means that those who witness it will be altered for ever. Jon McGregor's first novel brilliantly evokes the histories and lives of the people in the street to build up an unforgettable human panorama. Breathtakingly original, humane and moving, IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS is an astonishing debut. 'The work of a burning new talent ...Jon MacGregor writes like a lyrical angel' Daily Mail

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:56 -0400)

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On a street in a town in the North of England, perfectly ordinary people are doing totally normal things. But a terrible event shatters the quiet of the summer evening and no one who witnesses it will ever be the same again.

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