Read So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor Online


In this potent examination of family and memory, Jon McGregor charts one man's voyage of self-discovery. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, So Many Ways to Begin is rich in the intimate details that shape a life, the subtle strain that defines human relationships, and the personal history that forms identity. David Carter, the novel's protagonist, takes a keen iIn this potent examination of family and memory, Jon McGregor charts one man's voyage of self-discovery. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, So Many Ways to Begin is rich in the intimate details that shape a life, the subtle strain that defines human relationships, and the personal history that forms identity. David Carter, the novel's protagonist, takes a keen interest in history as a boy. Encouraged by his doting Aunt Julia, he begins collecting the things that tell his story: a birth certificate, school report cards, annotated cinema and train tickets. After finishing school, he finds the perfect job for his lifetime obsession as curator at a local history museum. His professional and romantic lives take shape as his beloved aunt and mentor's unravel. Lost in a fog of senility, Julia lets slip a secret about David's family. Over the course of the next decades, as David and his wife Eleanor live out their lives - struggling through early marriage, professional disappointments, the birth of their daughter, Eleanor's depression, and an affair that ends badly, David attempts to physically piece together his past, finding meaning and connection where he least expects it....

Title : So Many Ways to Begin
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781596912229
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

So Many Ways to Begin Reviews

  • Dolors
    2019-02-21 20:15

    What does a life amount up to? A collection of memories, snapshots of hazy moments that pile up at the back of a mind that are fitted into the incomplete puzzle of identity, experience and hopefulness. David Carter had it all sorted out early in childhood. He would make of his passion for ancient objects his profession, and eventually he would open his own museum. When he meets Eleanor, a Scottish girl with a troubled family history, whom he marries not much later, he envisions his life as a steady progression towards personal and professional fulfillment. But a secret that should have remained a secret is bared in the open air by accident and he sees his past and present crumble down into a puddle of lies and moral dilemmas.Jon McGregor threads a blunt, unadorned story of an ordinary life that needs to be reconstructed from scratch. Everything that David took for granted; his family heritage, his professional ambitions and his role as husband and father, acquires a new dimension in view of the fortuitous revelation that alters the perception of his life story for good. Small fragments of an alternative past are the foundations of David’s quest to find his authentic self: old letters, faded pictures and various mementoes guide him through the bumpy path towards the truth that has been eluding him for half of his life.What is left of a life after it is spent?David’s conscientious hoard of relics might allow a chain of events to be chronologically reenacted; but do the crucial, life-changing moments ever leave track? Or are they kept silent, buried deep in the dark recesses of our frustration, impotence and grief that we try to disguise with nonchalant indifference? Like the ceaseless flow of subterranean waters, David will see his life go by without ever being fully in it, his cherished objects crowning every milestone in mute desperation, but his heart lost somewhere in the distant, unalterable past or in an unattainable future. Meanwhile, he doesn’t live his present.In order to breathe again, in order for the stream to come up to the surface and kiss the shore of the parched land that has taken hold of him, David will have to embrace the tangled web of imperfections of those he loves as his own, and accept that the life he was given, the life that we all have, is only one; that family is more than blood ties or genetics, and that home is a stone’s throw away, home is within ourselves. There might be many ways to begin, but once you started walking, do not look back, and keep moving on.

  • Chrissie
    2019-02-14 19:13

    This book deals with a plethora of interesting themes. The first is adoption and what it is that defines a mother and father. Is parenthood defined by blood and genes or is it instead time spent and experiences shared? Should a child be told they are adopted, and if this information is withheld what will be the consequences? Mental illness is another theme. Can one / should one shove psychological problems and the troubled relationships that result under a mat? What will be the result? Can resolution be attained without discussion? What happens if problems are avoided and it is pretended the problems quite simply do not exist? The book looks at complicated marital relationships that although based on true love must overcome problems, and isn’t that really how most relationships are? How do relationships develop over time, and can resolution be attained without cinematics and melodrama? Troubled relationships is the third central theme. A fourth theme is how history is best recorded--in objects or through memories and stories? What if memories are distorted, as they most usually are?!All of the above stated themes are relevant to the book.The central character, David Carter, is adopted. This is made very clear from the beginning of the book, in how the story is told, in the arrangement of parts and chapters. It is obvious. I would have preferred that this had been revealed later after having been introduced to the characters. David’s wife, Elena is depressed. Mental illness lies in the family. Her mother had been placed in an asylum. There is mental illness in David’s family too. I am using a wide definition of family! There is the set-up. The central themes are woven into the lives of the characters. What this book does is observe how the characters deal with these problems. The observations made are meticulously correct and realistically drawn. Often it feels that one is observing through a camera lens. How the characters hold their bodies and how they move is remarkably well detailed. This is an achievement to be acknowledged, but at the same time there is created a distance between the reader and the characters. We observe from the outside. We do not see what is rolling around in the characters’ heads. What we observe is the external. The internal is not discussed. The characters tend to run from their problems rather than tackling them or even thinking about them. The adoptee, David, is a museum curator; he sees history in objects and things, less in stories and memories. At the beginning. in the middle and what about at the end?I am giving my view. Another reader may well have a different view! I felt I never came to understand what caused Elena’s family discord, although it was not hard to guess at probable causes. Neither are we told how she came to (view spoiler)[feel better, although we observe that she does become better (hide spoiler)]. This I see as a weakness of the book. I would have preferred to have access to the characters’ thoughts and to feel their inner turmoil. A perfect description of external events is not enough for me. This is my prime criticism of the book. The same criticism can be said of David’s meeting with his mother, which you know is going to come at the book’s end. It is so obvious it cannot be classified as a spoiler. What the book is about is instead how that meting unfolds, not if it will or will not happen.The telling of the tale does not move forward chronologically. There are many characters and the disjointed telling can be confusing. Each chapter has a title, most often referring to an object that could be found in a museum display, and a date. This could be said to be fitting for a book about a museum curator. The audiobook is narrated by Matt Bates. It is good. It is easy to follow. The reading fits the tone and style of the writing. It is never emotional; it remains cool and calm and external, just as the writing is. I have given both the book and the narration three stars. I want to feel more emotion and involvement with a story’s characters. I want to get into their heads.If you have read the author's earlier novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, you will recognize a similar tone and writing style. Both I have given three stars. I have liked both.

  • Teresa
    2019-01-24 20:06

    McGregor has a wonderful command of language, turning the most commonplace things into scenes and situations that are lovely and heartbreaking. More than once I almost felt tears coming to my eyes, and not even at times that would be considered dramatic.Even though you know what is coming at the climax, in the 3rd to last chapter, your heart breaks once again for his characters, who are flawed, struggling, complicated and 'normal.' I think it was because of this chapter that I felt the book should've ended sooner, that the ending was perhaps a few pages too long. There were also a few times I felt this way earlier in the book and that perhaps the story was too familiar, that perhaps it had been done already. At one point I was reminded of Colm Toibin and his Brooklyn but ultimately this book was all Jon McGregor. I still prefer his If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, a book I read twice, something, since childhood, that I rarely do.The theme of coming at a story in different ways -- so many ways to begin -- is evoked several times, and beautifully done.

  • Deea
    2019-02-02 14:11

    There are more kinds of books: the ones that you perceive as wonderful, but you struggle to get them finished as they have a really difficult style, the ones that you like for the story, but not so much for the eloquence of their writing, the ones that you like for the eloquence of writing, but not so much for the story, the ones that are great, but which are not very complex, and the ones that once you connect to their story don’t cease to impress you. You would say that my list above is not exhaustive and you are right: this is just a subjective categorization. It however serves the point I want to make: “So Many Ways to Begin” is a member of the last category: once you get connected to its story, it never stops being amazing, not for a page, not even for a line. Just Like “Stoner” or “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, books that I discovered last year.The temporal plans in this book are craftily juggled: there are short episodes from the future or present intercalated with the past, but mainly, the author keeps a chronological order. I’m not sure how to explain this, but what he succeeds in doing is magnificent: he can add only a glimpse of an idea that he will have in the future or a memory from the future and then unravel past and present events chronologically until you realize that he is actually explaining how that idea/memory formed over time. He therefore found this unique way to explore the ”so many ways to begin”: how relationships form over time, how we can lie just because saying the truth is extremely difficult, how we may judge others because we don’t understand that we would do the same in their place in the same situation, how abuse in childhood affects us as adults, how when committing adultery, people might do this out of solitude and frustration and helplessness, rather than out of a desire to be treacherous.There are similarities between the other book by Jon McGregor that I read (“If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things”) and this one that I could not help but notice: there is an abusive mother that we are told about (in INSRT her actions were not presented in detail, we were only told about one of the characters’ difficult relationship with her mother; here however, Eleanor’s mother’s behavior is presented extensively); David gathers all kinds of objects and exhibits them in the house ever since he was a child and also each chapter of the book centers its story around important objects from David and Eleanor’s life which are catalogued in the same way the exhibits in a museum are (while in INSRT one of the characters gathers objects belonging to his neighbors and takes snapshots of them in an attempt to take a mental picture of the humans surrounding him).You get to discover together with David his life story in a similar way in which you discover stories when/after visiting a museum. You see objects, you read their description, their history, their importance in the characters’ life, you might even start investigating more and digging for more details. Then, you compile all the stories about the objects you’ve seen and this helps you scribble a story in your head. It’s not a complete one, a story can never touch all the aspects of a real life, but you get a very clear picture of what it must’ve been like. And this is what Jon McGregor does: he tells us the story of two normal people (just like me, or you or someone we know) who are fragile as only humans can be and he explores where it all begins (how they turned to be the people they are, when exactly they began making certain mistakes, what determined them, how they became depressed, what made them happy or unhappy, what was the exact beginning of the outcomes of the present).“These things, the way they happen. These things, the way they begin.” “Isn’t it funny to think we almost never met?”

  • Stef Smulders
    2019-02-01 17:05

    The writing is beautiful but so detailed that the story progresses very very slowly. It also lacks focus meandering from the life of Eleanor, her depressions to that of David. Characteristical is the first piece of part one where David is visting Eleanor's mother, not his own, a thing that had me wondering the whole book and in the end didn't have any significance at all. Interesting writer, but the novel not so.

  • Bruce
    2019-02-10 18:00

    McGregor unfolds his story in a very captivating manner. His protagonist is a museum worker, and personally, a collector of all the bits and pieces of paper that make up a life. His tale is told episodically, with each chapter tied to some of the ephemera that he has collected over the years of his life. Additionally, you have the sense that he is rummaging through a lot of this material, and telling you the story as each bit comes to hand. This results in a novel that is not at all linear.The writing is compelling, and crisp, and I liked the way the story ended, not too neatly, and in an entirely believable way. I look forward to reading more of his work.

  • Debnance
    2019-02-10 16:57

    There are so many ways to begin this review, but, then, that’s always the hard part, isn’t it…beginning…. This is a book I want to shove in the hands of every reader I meet. “Read this one,” I might coax cajolingly. “It’s good. You’ll like it.” Like the characters in this book, I have a hard time saying what I want to say. What I really want to say is that McGregor knows how to tell a story, not start to finish, but in little pieces, some from the middle of the story, one or two from near the beginning, and a few from the end. Somehow he manages to connect all the pieces together to make a whole puzzle; it is only when you look at it closely that you realize he has left whole chunks out, but it doesn’t matter at all. What I really want to say is that McGregor is—what—thirty? and yet he gets life, he gets marriage, he gets children, he gets grandchildren even. He sees the big picture in a way that most of us haven’t quite gotten at fifty, the sadnesses, the tiny bubbles of complete joy, the deep disappointments, the way we can turn mean, how we can forget with time, how hard it is to tell our stories, how hard it is even to know where to start.

  • Katie Lumsden
    2019-02-23 14:19

    This was brilliant and beautiful! The language is incredible and the book is structured like a museum of memory. Another astounding novel from Jon McGregor.

  • Gerund
    2019-02-17 18:57

    Finding out, as a young man, by accident, from an Alzheimer's-ridden aunt in a moment of deadly lucidity, that you were actually adopted and that your real mother was an unmarried Irish teenager, might be enough of an event to upset you somewhat, and perhaps compel you to give the cold shoulder to your loving but deceitful adoptive mother for a day or two.Imagine, then, if you were not just an ordinary young man, but a born historian. Someone whose boyhood idea of fun was going to musuems to stare at the exhibits of jewellery and weapons. Someone who derived joy from collecting junk from the roadside and labelling them and displaying them on the windowsill. Someone who spent most of his life looking for, as Jon McGregor puts it, "something he could hold on to and say, look, this belonged to my fathers and forefathers, this is some small piece of who they were. This is some small piece of where I began."In his latest novel, So Many Ways To Begin, 30-year-old British writer Jon McGregor creates a protagonist called David Carter who is exactly like that. A curator at Coventry's only museum, he learns about his anonymous parentage through the ramblings of his senile Aunt Julia, a friend of his mother's when they were both nurses serving in a London hospital during World War II. During their time there they helped deliver the baby of a teenaged girl, who never returned to claim her child although promising to do so."The not knowing was the hardest thing," McGregor has David say to someone later. Indeed, McGregor has created a character for whom not knowing would be very, very hard indeed, practically a professional blow. Yet, even though all of McGregor's careful character establishment makes it understandable, then, when David proceeds to glower silently at his adoptive mother for months, even years, it doesn't make him any more sympathetic.Here's the rub: the novel is reasonably well-written, beautifully written at parts even, but the central character is rather unlikeable. Reading the novel is like spending a train journey through the most sublime of landscapes, but with a companion who has a slight body odour problem. Occasionally, the wind gushing through the open window is strong enough to fill your lungs with fresh pine scent, but once it passes you're left wrinkling your nose and hoping he'll take a toilet break.

  • Ian Mapp
    2019-02-14 14:55

    This is literature at its finest.Its starts with a prologue of 1930s ireland and the rush for work that leave you wondering where the story is going and then an opening line, as good as any ever read about David Carter returning to his wife from her mothers funeral. This works so well - why didnt she go - instant mystery.David is a curator at Cov Museum and the story is told as he goes through a box of objects that tell the story of his life.And there are no shocking murders. It seems that Macgregor writes well about the complexities of everyday lives and the ordinary is made fantastic.In the present, David is married to Eleanor and their story from long distance romance to her mental problems and agrophobia are told in loving detail, maintaining interest throughout.David's background is also told - from a normal family with a sister and close famiy friend, auntie julia who develops dementia and reveals to him at the age of 22 that he was adopted (well, taken in by his mother, a nurse, in WW2 and bought up as her own without even his father knowing).This cause a bit of a rift and david sets about tracing his real mother, even going as far as meeting a woman who turns out not to be his mother. This is a theme of the book, lives little disappointments and muddling through.There is a great bit in the middle of the book and eleanors illness starts creeping in and he nearly starts an affair with a lady from work. This goes as far as him going to her house and being invited in for afternoon nookie. In alternating chapters, it is shown that he didnt go through with it, her husband found out, beat him up in a kind of duel and he didnt tell anyone about it.Wonderfully upbeat ending as the love between him and his wife is described... after all their little disappointments.Great book and candidate for book of the year.

  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    2019-02-17 20:10

    There are so many ways to begin this review, but, then, that's always the hard part, isn't it...beginning....This is a book I want to shove in the hands of every reader I meet. "Read this one," I might coax cajolingly. "It's good. You'll like it." Like the characters in this book, I have a hard time saying what I want to say. What I really want to say is that McGregor knows how to tell a story, not start to finish, but in little pieces, some from the middle of the story, one or two from near the beginning, and a few from the end. Somehow he manages to connect all the pieces together to make a whole puzzle; it is only when you look at it closely that you realize he has left whole chunks out, but it doesn't matter at all. What I really want to say is that McGregor is---what---thirty? and yet he gets life, he gets marriage, he gets children, he gets grandchildren even. He sees the big picture in a way that most of us haven't quite gotten at fifty, the sadnesses, the tiny bubbles of complete joy, the deep disappointments, the way we can turn mean, how we can forget with time, how hard it is to tell our stories, how hard it is even to know where to start.

  • AmandaLil
    2019-02-04 15:56

    This was a Goodreads giveaway win for me, thank you to the publisher and Goodreads for the opportunity to read and review.The story of a man who abruptly discovers he was adopted as a baby So Many Ways to Begin was a solid story. I've noticed other readers have complained about the way the story was told, with each chapter title an object from the many items of the narrators life he has collected over the years for his museum. Each chapter is a chapter from his life the he relates after looking at the object and while the book isn't exactly linear I didn't have any trouble following the story. I felt this was the most creative aspect of the book. Overall the writing was solid and the story was good, although I was somewhat annoyed that he was so obsessed with the fact he was adopted. It really seemed to take over the character so that it was hard to focus on him as a person.

  • Laala Alghata
    2019-01-28 19:23

    “Lives were changed and moved by much smaller cues, chance meetings, overheard conversations, the trips and stumbles which constantly alter and readjust the course of things, history made by a million fractional moments too numerous to calibrate or observe or record.” — Jon McGregor, So Many Ways to BeginJon McGregor is one of those authors I want to introduce the world to. He really isn’t recognised enough for his enormous talent. He’s young (34) and has written three novels, so I can only hope that has much more in him and that each will be just as amazing as the last. I wonder if he could possibly write something more amazing. When I met him at Hay this year, I was astonished at how modest he was. His writing does read a little like that, a little reserved, snatches of brilliance instead of overreaching, which makes it all the more rewarding to read. But I was still in awe of how he couldn’t know how incredibly, incredibly talented he is. This is his second novel. It’s the story of David’s life, told through mementos in his life’s museum. David himself is infatuated with history, and goes to work in a museum, as his dream is to be a curator. McGregor explores how such small things can affect the entire outcome of our lives — how we could miss out on meeting our life partner, on gaining our dream jobs, on understanding where we came from. I don’t want to outline the story, but suffice to say we are taken through the years with authenticity and tenderness.McGregor writes in a very poetic way, sometimes using metaphors and such but mostly describing landscapes and expressions with a clarity unavailable to most of us, with everyday language made exquisite. Go buy any of his books and introduce yourself to this wonderful man if you haven’t already.

  • Ian
    2019-02-12 20:15

    I really enjoyed this novel about the journey of one man's life and his search for his roots. David Carter had always wanted to work in a museum and his story is told through a series of exhibits - memories brought to the fore by memorabilia of the small things of life that he and others in his family have kept by accident or deliberately saved. Not just photos and letters, but train tickets, to do lists, party invites, old clothes etc etc. Some of David's memories however are imaginary. It is set mainly in Coventry and the story moves back and forth in time between Coventry, Aberdeen, London and Ireland. It is a story of family and although David Carter is at its centre, it often feels as much a story about mothers, their attitudes to their children and the difficult choices they sometimes have to make. There is desperate Mary who has to abandon her baby, "Aunt" Julia who acts as David's second mother and mentor but possibly neglects her own son and is then struck down by early onset dementia, Dorothy his stalwart mother, Eleanor his wife who suffers dreadfully with depression, the mother of his daughter Kate and finally, Ivy, Eleanor's abusive mother. It is a clever and stimulating read but also an easy and entertaining one.

  • Sibyl
    2019-02-21 20:55

    I'm in two minds about this book. Section by section it's beautifully written. But the whole seemed to be less than the sum of its parts. There was the potential for a gripping story, about a man and a woman both haunted by family unhappiness, who try to keep on loving each other. But Jon McGregor was so keen to focus on the minutiae of each scene - so indifferent about larger dramatic tension and plotting - that in the end I wasn't sure whether or not I cared about the main characters. I'm not sorry I read the novel. But there was something anticlimactic about it....

  • ☮Karen
    2019-02-10 19:01

    I won this book from Goodreads First Reads. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would at first. The story did not become interesting to me until after about 100 pages, when David discovers the truth about his birth. The people in this book all seem to be suffering so, with little flashes of happiness that burst through on occasion. I wish it would have been more uplifting, but in fact I found it all rather depressing. Even so, I recommend the book and the author.

  • Lucy J Jeynes
    2019-01-26 21:15

    This is an odd, quirky book, in that I didn't really warm to either the main character or any of the other characters around him, and yet I still found it an interesting read. One element I liked was reading about the reconstruction of Coventry after the war.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-02-11 21:17

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Mandy
    2019-01-27 15:02

    3.5* Hard one to rate, I loved the style of writing, beautiful, clever, alternatives suggested, memento triggers etc but it was over long.

  • Rosemary
    2019-02-21 20:18

    An interesting story of families and disappointments, and how "ordinary" lives are never totally ordinary, after all. I found the early parts a little slow and skipped ahead, but then I got hooked and went back and read every word. I like the way that artefacts introduce each chapter. You have to keep track of the dates and handle quite a lot of jumping around in time. So it does require a certain amount of concentration, but for me it definitely paid off.

  • Mary
    2019-01-31 17:54

    Beautifully written but disappointed with the ending!

  • Angel
    2019-02-24 20:01

    This one just wasn’t for me, at all. I had a very very hard time getting past the way the book was written. It has a complete lack of quotation marks, a huge personal pet peeve of mine. I tried to look past that but the story itself was just very dry for me...I couldn’t do it. I bailed.

  • Judith
    2019-02-08 14:07

    David Carter - Curator of a local museum; obsessive collector and archivist of his own life........until a senile relative reveals a long-buried family secret. Then David's life slips out of orbit. So begins his own personal Reconstruction..and his coming to terms with the fact that his life has not been what it seemed....that he isn't who he thought he was. so begins his search for "self".Add to this a wife with bipolar disorder and its attendant strains...troubles in the workplace both personal and professional.....a daughter turned rebellious...and David's own batch of demons and weaknesses..and you have a heartbreaker of a story.The author has an engaging style that moves the story along without undue sentimentality or "drama"...The ending could have been "tighter", but that's a minor quibble..and seems perfectly correct, in hindsight. The book has a definite British feel to it...."brave stoicism" with hysteria and rage lying just below the surface.I liked the way McGregor portrayed David's situation as his life spiraled downwards- the confusion, frustration and anger so well-contained....only bursting forth at intervals..then receding quietly..until the next time. McGregor also writes about sex between married people in a healthily realistic fashion- no "throbbing" or "heaving" here...just "the way it is" in all its glory...the blessed "routine" of it all.I recommend this to anyone who enjoys intelligent Soap Opera......who enjoys a good story, well told, without a patent "happy ending"...who is still "searching for self" (though maybe not this thoroughly)......I say give this one a try...4 Stars (****)

  • J.L. Whitaker
    2019-02-06 20:56

    Peering into the life circumstances of another human being can be daunting, scary even. That's how I felt in reading the story of David Carter. The discoveries he makes about himself, and those he thinks he knows so well, unfold like the layers of an onion with sand-paper in between. None of the characters are prepared for the reactions from others, as each of those bits of grit are shared, secrets revealed, out of the best of intentions, but secrets just the same. His life is his museum and he has curated it very well, and so wants to share it.The writing style, sans quotation marks, flows beautifully, with a dream-like quality, and felt like the perfect way to tell this story.Don't let the prologue dissuade you. Do read it, but then set it aside. This is David's story, not Mary's, although she does fit. But hold onto David. He needs the reader's comfort and acceptance. He may even be a little part of you.

  • Lizzy
    2019-02-12 18:03

    Won this in Goodreads contest. So many ways to to begin to review this book! The prose was stunning. I loved the analogy that we are all curators of our lives. However it can be a depressing read, I could not like David and the ending was abrupt to me.The following is my favorite passage from the book:"Lives were changed and moved by much smaller cues, chance meetings, over-heard conversations, the trips and stumbles which constantly alter and readjust the course of things, history made by a million fractional moments too numerous to calibrate or observe or record. The real story, he knew, was more complicated than anything he could gather together in a pair of photo albums and a scrapbook and drive across the country to lay out on a table somewhere. The whole story would take a lifetime to tell. But what he had would be a start, he thought, a way to begin."How true is that!So I give the writing style and the premise of the storyline a 4, but the characters a 2.

  • Nancyewhite
    2019-02-20 18:04

    This is a simple story well told. I love books that focus on how ordinary people with relatively ordinary problems get by and manage to make connections through the pain and darkness that sometimes afflicts us all. In this particular story, Jon MacGregor tells the story of David Carter. A husband, father, son, and curator. There are some family secrets which reverberate through each role as he tries to navigate his life. Generally speaking, David Carter is a good man doing the best he can. I particularly liked the way that MacGregor handled depression and melancholy. He was descriptive and gave insight without melodrama. This book is extremely well-written and observed. I recommend it highly to folks like myself who enjoy small stories of everyday men and women.

  • Beth Anne
    2019-02-15 14:03

    goodreads giveaway...i am so glad that i won this book. i revel in the mundane...and for some reason, i love the details of these peoples lives. i love the alternate versions of what could have happened, all told in the same sentence. all regular normal reactions...all completely plausable...all mundane. i loved the quiet nature of the story....the conflicts and sadness in each of the characters stories...julie, who withers away in her disease. david, who finds out secrets about himself and everyone around him...and struggles to come to terms with them. eleanor, who loses herself in a life unfulfilled. such powerful stories in such a quiet novel....i really loved this book.

  • Ruthie
    2019-02-11 15:55

    Won this book thru Goodreads, and I am very glad I did. The story is a quiet recounting of a marriage, of a childhood, of a secret. The surprise is the writing. This book came out in 2006, and the author won prizes for an earlier novel, so how come this book is just getting my attention now in 2011? The writing in this book is superb. It is subtle yet powerful, truly impressive. There is a chapter where Aunt Julia describes meeting her husband at a dance during the war and the chapter reads as a piece of music, the room spins as the dancers move and the story takes on the pace of the music, as does the relationship. I had to reread it to marvel at the author's skill. I am looking forward to reading more from McGregor.

  • Debra
    2019-01-30 16:57

    David, the main character, has been obsessed with history since he was a little boy and collects all sorts of memorabilia. As an adult he accidentally discovers a secret about his life from a senile aunt. Now he feels like his whole life and the items he has cataloged about his life story are a lie. McGregor does a great job of telling the story and showing how David deals with his discovery and how he subsequently handles the relationships with his family. I enjoyed this book and thought McGregor did a great job of writing about ordinary everyday life in an extraordinary way. I would definitely recommend this book.

  • Veronica Zundel
    2019-01-25 18:09

    Centred on the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery in Coventry, a place significant to my childhood and youth, and set in the 1950s when it was new, this novel explores themes of identity, love and memory through each chapter beginning with an object that could be in the museum. Second novels are notoriously difficult to manage, but McGregor has here entirely lived up to the promise of his first, 'If nobody speaks of remarkable things'.