Review: if nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor

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What It’s About:

if nobody speaks of remarkable things is about an ordinary street on an ordinary day until something unexpected and terrible happens which changes the lives of everyone who are there when it happens.

My thoughts:

if nobody speaks of remarkable things is one of those remarkable literary books that makes you realise the beauty of the written word without actually having anything to do with writing.  The prose read more like poetry and made me fall in language all over again.  However, the words don’t subtract from the story that is painted through snippets of life – if anything, it just enhances the feeling that the normal and regular are truly amazing, if only you could see them through the right lens.

The story is set in two time periods, both of which are told in present tense (one in third person and one in first).  I found this a little disjointing at first, but soon fell into the rhythm of the storytelling.  As far as plot goes, it is hard to see one at all as you read through the scenes of life unfolding.  I believe the author is rather trying to show the how life could be seen if you knew everything and were able to lock onto a detail or two at a time.  With this view, I actually found the ending quite disappointing as I felt it undermined the rest of the book, although it was certainly a twist that I hadn’t seen coming.  And it wasn’t the first one.  Seeing the world through such attention to detail means that you are caught up in what is happening right at that moment to the point that you feel you are there, and therefore there were a few moments when completely unexpected events happened – events that are hinted at in the ‘future’ storyline, but never known until you experience them as the characters do.

On the note of characters, there are only a few that are given names and only in the ‘future’ time period.  However, it is clear that names aren’t needed to get a thorough picture of each person mentioned as the attention to detail is so specific that an image forms in your mind, slowly being added to as you read.  There were a few moments when I got confused about who was who but I could usually work it out before the end of the scene.

I would highly recommend this book just on the way it is written.  Every writer will come away with an even higher appreciation of language, and every person will come away with a different perspective about the world and how it can be seen.  If you enjoy short stories, poetry or characterisations then I would say you have to read this book (and if not, you should probably read it anyway).

Overall rating – 4.5/5

by Tamara Epps


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