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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things    by Jon McGregor order for
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
by Jon McGregor
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Set in London in a typical neighborhood where people come and go, and neighbors see each other every day but never speak, this book celebrates life in all its ordinariness. Nominated for the Booker Prize, it is not your usual novel, but instead a beautifully written prose poem.

Starting with a vivid description of the city, the book then concentrates on the people who live on a certain street. No one is named; instead they are referred to as 'the young man from number eighteen' and 'the couple in the attic flat of number twenty-two.' For the most part, the action takes place on one day. Woven through the story are the experiences of one young woman, who is looking back to that day from some time in the future. There is the feeling of impending tragedy, but we don't find out about the tragedy until the last chapter. The fact that this day is the same as the one on which Princess Diana died is also vaguely alluded to.

Jon McGregor's prose catches his characters in action like a camera would. My book club loved the old man. I loved the artist. But we all had trouble following the story line, and only at the end could we put it all together. Several of our group read the book more than once because they were so interested and really wanted to understand it.

If the book is so difficult, why is it so highly rated? I think it is because first-time author McGregor has bewitched us with his rich descriptive style and wonderful imagery. This book is a poem on what are usually perceived as very unremarkable lives and events set against a very remarked life and event. Because they are noticed, they have been elevated beyond the normal and become lives and events worth noticing and even beautiful. Such is the impact of speaking of the most unremarkable things. Bravo Mr. McGregor!

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