Rating: 4 stars
Reservoir 13 isn’t a book that I would have picked up of my own accord. Our local book group chose it for their reading, and so I dived in.
It’s a prizewinner, and experience has taught me to be sceptical of these in the past. But anything for book group.
Reservoir 13 focuses on life in a small town after a young girl disappears while on holiday there. It places the ongoing cycle of human existence both in rhythm with and in contrast with the natural world, as the cycles of the rural landscape turn on and on and the human world struggles to make sense of itself. It follows a vast cast of characters (seriously, if you care about remembering who is who, then make a list) and spans thirteen years. Each chapter follows that yearly cycle, beginning on New Year’s Day as the clock strikes midnight. Towards the end, I began to find this pattern a little wearing, but I could see how the idea of the ongoing passage of the years was central to the book’s themes. In general, I loved the style: it was delicate, descriptive, and quite poetic in places.
What I struggled with more was the lack of a driving plot. Although I was interested in the lives of the characters and I loved the way the book entwined rural rituals with human drama and the wildness of nature, I wouldn’t have said that I was gripped. I appreciated the style and what is was trying to do, but I didn’t find myself seeking out time to read it, and if it hadn’t been for my book group I probably wouldn’t have finished it.
It was a great book for discussion, partly because of the huge cast of characters – everyone had a favourite and different ones that they found convincing or unconvincing. People had strong feelings either way about the style and format of the book, and how the ostensibly central plot (the missing girl) fitted in.
Despite my reservations about Reservoir 13, I would recommend it, and I’d love to hear what others thought of it, and how they got on with it. A thought-provoking and beautifully written novel, if not a page-turner.
Reviewed by Louise