When Jon McGregor was a guest on A Good Read, a BBC radio program where two guests and the host discuss their book choice, he chose a book with short essays on plants, stars and animals. It was as if he wanted to make the point that he really does see poetry in everything.
Reservoir 13 is his fourth novel — and also the fourth one I read. The book is about an English village where one day a thirteen-year old girl, on holiday in the village, suddenly goes missing. The book describes the thirteen years following this incident.
Except that it is not really about the girl, or her disappearance. Though she is regularly referred to throughout the book, the fact that she’s always the thirteen-year old girl, while everyone else is getting older, is a clever way to show the passing of time, which is the book’s real theme.
In short snapshots — thirteen per each of the thirteen years of the book; that is poetry too — one sees children grow up, couples grow closer together or drift apart, annual traditions continue yet change a little bit every year. None of the characters receives special focus and none of the story lines is particularly interesting in itself; it is what they make together that is very beautiful.
I have never lived in a village myself and it is not one of the life experiences I am very sad to have missed, yet I do appreciate there is something uniquely beautiful about small communities: a certain kind of poetry that is less noticeable in towns and cities.