Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's All In The Details


Coming across a debut novel with a unique style is always a pleasure, and such was the case with Jon McGregor’s If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. His follow-up is a lot more ambitious -- with mixed results.

McGregor tempers his charged, poetic prose to tell the story of David Carter who, because of an aunt’s slip of the tongue, realises he’s an adopted child. David’s life so far has been unexceptional though not always pleasant – his wife, Eleanor, is prone to fits of depression, and this also affects the couple’s relationship with their daughter.

David is a Coventry museum curator and, fittingly, his search for fulfillment over the years is told though the artifacts that fill his life – each section begins with memories related to identity badges, cinema tickets, catalogues, birth certificates, wine corks and the like.

The structure is ingenious, the prose skilled and the characters’ lives attended to with care. However, such total immersion in the minutiae of middle-class British life makes the novel more dreary than delightful. As Andrea del Sarto said of his work: “A common greyness silvers everything”.

Worth your while? Certainly not to be discarded outright, but too long and cheerless, alas.

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