Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

"The Reservoir Tapes" by Jon McGregor (4th Estate, 2017)

This is the radio version of "Reservoir 13" - 166 generously spaced pages. Chapter 1, "Charlotte", is one side of an interview with the mother of a 13 year old girl, Beckie, who disappeared during a country walk, so it's fractured -

It's quite small, isn't it, the cottage. Lovely. But small.
Sorry, barn conversion.

and later

I do realise this must be
of course

Other chapters are more conventional anecdotes and short stories, all featuring the same place. Chapter 13 uses short lines for no reason I understand. E.g.

It was hard
to live through. They didn't know what they were doing
They didn't know what had got into her, sometimes.
Drink, they suspected, or


The timings of the events aren't always clear at first. Only at the end do we discover that on the day of Beckie's disappearance her parents had decided upon an amicable divorce. Lack of sexual satisfaction (not least amongst wives) is a common theme. Some of the pieces (e.g. about the victim of confidence tricksters) have perfunctory connections with the theme. Others mention disappearing adolescents and suspicious characters. All the characters are well depicted. It's a quick, easy read. I can see how a mosaic of village life might emerge, but for me there are too few pieces and they're too widely separated from each other - some of them need support.

Other reviews

  • Christopher Tayler (His writing is very English, but not cosy or backwards-looking, and austere without being pinched ... 15 short stories set in the same universe, and for anyone who enjoyed Reservoir 13, it is essential reading ... Some of the stories round out the emphases of the novel. Two of them spend time with Becky’s parents, who, as outsiders, are shadowy figures in the earlier work. ... The Reservoir Tapes is so called because the stories were commissioned for broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and that format means that the writing has a more spoken cadence and a wider range of tones than the novel’s steady circlings and repetitions allowed.)

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