I was recommended to read If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things in order to marvel at McGregor’s impressive ability to leap from voice to voice. This is a novel about a street in a British city, about the people that live on it, how they interact and how they react to a nasty accident that happens in the middle of the afternoon the story is set on. The inhabitants of the street are varied – students, a multi-generational Muslim family, an old couple celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary, a retired bachelor irritated by littering, a single father mourning the death of his wife… McGregor floats in and out of the personalities of disparate characters, capturing class and gender and age and cultural background in an impressive way. One feels as close to (in terms of understanding) the ill man remembering his time in the second world war as one does to the youths relaxing after a big night out, the latter being much closer in age to McGregor when he wrote the book.
Perhaps most impressive is his central figure – a young woman reflecting on the day in question, a few years older, a serious life change beginning for her. I never for a second lost my belief in this character, McGregor’s exploration of female sexuality, of the confused shock and awe of accidentally falling pregnant (not a spoiler, revealed quite soon in), struck me as believable. They felt right. But, alas, I too am a man so don’t really know what the fuck I’m talking about.
But I felt this novel was strong, was varied, painted an accurate impression of the kind of town I have been to, visited, explored the mindsets and the mentalities of a disparate and varied group of people brought together solely by place.
McGregor’s book is an interesting and arresting piece, multi-award-winning, and I can see why. Pensive without being navel-gazing, serious without being dull, densely constructed and verbally dextrous without losing readability…
Not a bad book. Not a bad book at all.