LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
A GUARDIAN NOTABLE BOOK OF 2017
From the award-winning author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and Even the Dogs. Reservoir 13 tells the story of many lives haunted by one family's loss.
Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.
Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed.
The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must.
As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.
Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.
An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.
McGregor's unforgettable novel begins with a 13-year-old girl's disappearance from an English village, and then tracks the village through the following years, as teenagers become adults, babies are born, people grow old and die, and couples get together and separate while what happened to the girl remains a mystery. Rebecca Shaw and her parents are visiting the village over Christmas, staying at the barn conversion they rented the previous summer, when Rebecca vanishes during a walk on the moors. Residents, police, and mountain and cave rescue teams search but find nothing. As time passes, the case stays open and unsolved. Local teenagers who knew Becky better than they admit to parents or police share memories of her among themselves while having sex, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and growing up; the school custodian is arrested on child pornography charges; a successful man returns to the village temporarily; an unhappy wife leaves permanently; the vicar collects confidences; one day the potter smashes his pottery. Twins born early in the novel grow up to hear the story of the missing girl, now part of a village culture marked by dark undercurrents and occasional moments of light. McGregor portrays individuals and the community as a whole, across seasons, in mundane scenes and moments of heartbreak, cruelty, and guilt. Close-ups of flora and fauna are set against a landscape of reservoirs, dens, and caves, the village hall, the pub, and the flooded quarry. This is an ambitious tour de force that demands the reader's attention; those willing to follow along will be rewarded with a singular and haunting story.