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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  4,536 ratings  ·  516 reviews
Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 4th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dolors
Sep 15, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who find the remarkable in the ordinary
Recommended to Dolors by: Teresa
Shelves: read-in-2014
“He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” (239)

A man with scarred hands stands transfixed in reverie staring at his oblivious daughter and wonders how she will ever discern the remarkable from the ordinary if the key to the beyond continues to be stubbornly hidden behind the obtuse quiescence of daily domesticity.
I reflect upon the invisible miracles that must have slipped through my fingers or been missed by my unobservant glance under the false prete
...more
Greg
arrgh. What a nice little book this was. So many beautiful little phrases and a great sense of isolation and the better feelings of lonely. Everything was going for this book. Who cares if there is a lack of character names, the characters were nicely flushed out the people in our everyday lives are who we know but don't really know. Everything was going right for it and then it fucking Bel Canto-ed me. I didn't even see it coming, right out of left field I was Patchetted, and the I wanted to la ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
If you start into this book looking for a conventional, plot-driven story, you might be disappointed. This is more like a motion picture put in words, exquisitely recording one summer day in the life of one unremarkable neighborhood in Northern England. As you watch the various residents going through their day from earliest morning until late afternoon, you also get to peek inside their hearts and minds and histories.

Most of the characters are never named, but as the author gradually unveils t
...more
·Karen·
Jul 31, 2014 ·Karen· added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tea drinkers everywhere
The magnificence of the mundane.

He says do you think there's too much of it?
I say I don't know, I mean some of it, some of it seems a bit, you know, less important.
He says he was talking about that a lot, before he went away, about there being too much, that's what all these things are about, his projects, he was trying to absorb some of it.
I say too much of what, he says too much of everything, too much stuff, too much information, too many people, too much of things for there to be too much of
...more
Alex Csicsek
This is a poetic novel about a typical summer day with a decidedly atypical climax in the life of a dense urban street in an unnamed English city.

The plot holds readers' interest but this novel's real gem is its characters. McGregor conjures up a residential city street and the people who populate it. From the old couple getting on the bus to the strange boy with the nervous tick, from the rambucuntious twins playing cricket in the street to the young adults recovering from a night of dancing, t
...more
Sarah
If nobody speaks of incredibly mundane things...

To be fair, I've never much cared for this particular style of writing. The present tense prose is a little too sparse for my taste. The narrative structure, a little too self-conscious. There's a deliberately generic quality to the setting and characters. I suppose this was done to emphasize the basic human condition. But, how can you love your characters if you don't even name them?

This sort of book alienates me, in a way, because everyone is gen
...more
Ian Kirkpatrick
I thought I would re-read “if nobody speaks of remarkable things” as it had been a few years since I last read it. I remember being very impressed by Jon McGregor when I initially read the book (I was going through a phase of reading debut novels at the time).


McGregor’s writing style is poetic; beautifully and meticulously structured. The story of a single day slowly unfolds through a series of little vignettes that slowly connect together, like projections on gauze. The narrative develops like
...more
Laala Alghata
“He sees a boy and a girl, the boy is sleeping, they are both naked and tangled up in each other, the light in the room is clean and golden and happiness is seeping out through the window, the girl looks at him and smiles and whispers good afternoon.” ~ If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Jon McGregor

This was an amazing book. Gorgeously written, and it seems to bring forth some beautiful, eloquent version of reality. It’s set in the suburbs of England, on a single street, and alternates betwe
...more
Bill
this is an interesting novel which was nominated for the booker prize.written almost like a prose poem, it is the story of a group of people living in one block somewhere in england.very few of the characters are given names, they are identified solely by their flat numbers (the boy in number 18, for example).at the very beginning of the book an unnamed tragedy occurs and you have to wait almost 275 pages to find out what happened.unfortunately after all this time, the ending is weak, which i ha ...more
Robert Beveridge
Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

In a general, very oversimplified sense, the reason we, as humans, have names is as a way to distinguish us from one another. When I was a small writer, knee-high to a grasshopper (actually, as my parents will tell you, I was never less than knee-high to a baluchitherium, but that's beside the point), one of the things I always thought would be cool was to write a novel that had no names whatsoever in it, where everyone
...more
Manuela M
Sheer prose.
If you are the type of reader that must re-read a beautiful sentence just for the joy of reading a beautiful sentence, or catch your breath when reading a description too perfect for words, then this is the book for you.
It's right from the begining, the text is more poem then prose. This is a really well written book, and it draws you right in from the begining - a description of the "song of the city" that you can hear if you just listen to the little sounds going on. very entranci
...more
Mark Hebwood
This is certainly a beautifully written novel. As in good poetry, form and content embrace, feeding off each other and creating an ephemeral "feel", rather than a story. Somehow, this "feel" manages to separate itself from the language which transports it, rather like the scent of perfume tends to linger after the liquid that carried it has long evaporated. Reading this book requires subtlety - look too hard at what you are reading and you may bring down its delicate structure, think too deeply ...more
Jayne Charles
This book scores incredibly highly on the modern literature gimmickry checklist. Let's see now...... Not a speech mark in the place...CHECK Hardly any of the characters named....CHECK Hanging paragraphs....hmmm that's innovative....CHECK Speech reported warts and all so it takes three readings of each sentence to make out what is being said ...CHECK Most of the commas and a good few full-stops left out....CHECK On that basis it should be a bestseller!

The trouble is it's a tough read, made tough
...more
Barry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary
Dec 18, 2011 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mary by: Booker short-list
Shelves: fiction, british-lit
Beautiful story and great form. A reminder to all that within each person there is a uniqueness of experience. We can not be known by name or address or outward appearance alone. In each there lies love, tragedy, desperation. But until we speak of what we have lived and how we have lived and what that same life has shaped us into then we do not speak at all, especially of those beautiful, horrible, magical, lonely remarkable things.
Vanessa
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things was the debut novel of Jon McGregor. It is told with a somewhat non-linear plot, and follows the lives of several mostly unnamed characters who all inhabit the same street in the North of England. At the same time, there is a second narrative following one of the inhabitants of this street in the future, where she discovers she is pregnant and reminisces about a terrible event that she witnessed in her old town years before.

I enjoyed this book for the most p
...more
Deea
Oct 25, 2014 Deea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
Shelves: longlist-mbp
In this non-conventional book the author talks about the everyday lives of the citizens of a certain neighborhood in the UK. He writes the phrases in such a way that everything these un-named characters do seems remarkable. Every single trivial action they do is written in such a poetic way as to seem remarkable. They don't have names (they are only identified by the number of the apartment they stay in or by certain features) and this anonymity seems to indicate that this story could apply to a ...more
Mark Hitchcock
One of the best books I've ever read and one of the few I will definitely re-read.
I fell in love from the very first page. The opening is beautifully poetic and although nothing really happened I was hooked and hoping that nothing continued to happen so that I could enjoy the prose.
Things did begin to happen, although they were every-day, mundane, unremarkable things made interesting by the writing.
The "chapters" alternate between the detailed, wonderful description of a typical late Summers
...more
John
I really wanted to love this book, it has such a lot of the things that I traditionally love about reading but ultimately, it didn't hang together as well as I'd hoped. And it started so well too!

The good
- the descriptions are second to none, I loved how McGregor described the city and the lives of the characters populating the story. In the best parts this is like poetry and puts you inside the created world.
- the writing really propels you onward with a sense of urgency, like a car with no b
...more
Amanda Greer
Yes, this novel is about simple, mundane events. Yes, none of the characters are named. And yes, the novel is very sentimental. The one thing that it isn't is ironic. So many works of contemporary fiction are full to the brim with irony and satire. Jon McGregor's novel is completely sincere. Instead of subtly mocking the world and using analogies to critique society, McGregor finds a new and optimistic way to see the world. This novel teaches readers to stop for a moment. Take it all in. Enjoy e ...more
Madeleine
This really was a beautiful, unusual novel. And it's perfect for all of us who are just removed enough from college to remember what it feels like to be absolutely sure of what the future holds and how the nearness of such lofty goals has become a constant reminder of how far we're getting from where we wanted to be.

It demands an awful lot from the reader: creative formatting, inference instead of neatly packaged conclusions, jumping between two periods with three years between them, characters
...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
halfway done. delicious read.
go to your happy reading place and savor it.

(now watch the last half completely blow goats.)

Completed today. the second half was just as good. unique style and voice...
Nina Milton
Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things: Glints of Gold.

In September I travelled to the cathedral city of Wells to speak at the Bishop’s Palace during the http://www.wellsfestivalofliterature.... Wells Festival of Literature. I was bursting with pride to be asked to do so. I had been a prize-winner of their short story competition and my brief was to give heart to the audience of writers, most of which had entered this years award, by sharing my success in writing since then.
I told
...more
Latanya Mcqueen
I hadn't thought about this book in awhile until the day I found out Michael Jackson died. I had a friend make a comment in regards to the media and everyone's massive outpouring of sympathy and sadness. He said, rather pointedly, what about all the other people that have died today? Shouldn't they be remembered, or thought about as well? We don't think too much about the soldiers off fighting in Iraq but if it's a celebrity, if it's Michael Jackson, then we care. We exclaim how it's a tragedy. ...more
Holly
the most "remarkable" thing about this book is that it's made up of basically every characteristic that i tend to despise in books - unnamed characters, stream of consciousness, overly flowery descriptions of every small piece of the setting, heavy background descriptions on characters who aren't plot-essential, drawn-out, repetitive timelines of events, a seemingly unnecessary "twist" ending, and so on. but i was completely enamored with it from start to finish. mcgregor's attention to detail a ...more
John Read
Sometimes you just can't get into a book. You try. You keep on reading in hope. But it's like a meal that your not enjoying. No matter how good the restaurant, if you don't like the food you can't deny it.
That's how it was for me with this book. Like a Michelin star chef, this book came with tons of brilliant reviews, but it never grabbed me.
I had no empathy with the characters, and the story - such as it was - didn't bother me either.
I finished it, but more in hope than enjoyment.
Perhaps it was
...more
Bibliophile
I was a little skeptical about Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (confession time: I don't usually like very experimental fiction!); the conceit of not naming any of the characters and identifying them solely by some physical characteristic and their residence, combined with not having any quotations for dialogue might, I thought, get very wearying after a while. Instead, I found myself totally caught up in this tale of a single day on a street in an unnamed English city; desp ...more
Alice
Any words that I write in review of this book just seem futile and dull compared to the beauty of writing style in this book. From the first page I was blown away by the description of simple, everyday events, transformed into 'remarkable things' by the author, a pattern which continued throughout the entire book.

The fact that it is not the most action-packed novel you will ever read is testament to Jon McGregor's writing, because I could not put the book down, so despite the apparent lack of e
...more
Alesa
This book was really something. It reads like a poem, and describes the interlocking lives of people who live on a single street in a city in England. In a way, it's like the movie Crash. In another, it's like Virginia Woolf's best novels, where she talks about the way that one person's thoughts influence the lives of others like an interconnecting web. It took me quite some time to figure out what the author was doing because the timeline is kind of odd, jumping back and forth. Also, it's reall ...more
Julian
I have owned several copies of this book, but whenever I lend it out people tend not to give it back. I don't mind, mostly because I think this book ought to be shared and read by as many people as possible.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is definitely one of my favourite books of all time. I first read it in high school, when I was at a point in my life where I felt like words constantly failed me. Nothing could describe the feelings this text evoked; and to some extent, I still have a h
...more
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What's The Name o...: Day in the life of several characters on English street, ends in tragedy [s] 3 23 Sep 15, 2014 04:49PM  
Twins? 2 74 Apr 27, 2013 03:42AM  
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Jon McGregor is a British author who has written three novels. His first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things was nominated for the 2002 Booker Prize, and was the winner of both the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award in 2003. So Many Ways to Begin was published in 2006 and was on the Booker prize long list. His newest novel, Even the Dogs was published in 2010.
More about Jon McGregor...
So Many Ways to Begin Even the Dogs This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You If It Keeps on Raining Which Reminded Her, Later: Family Snapshots

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“You must always look with both of your eyes and listen with both of your ears. He says this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. There are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are. If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?” 84 likes
“If you listen, you can hear it.
The city, it sings.
If you stand quietly, at the foot of a garden, in the middle of the street, on the roof of a house.
It's clearest at night, when the sound cuts more sharply across the surface of things, when the song reaches out to a place inside you.
It's a wordless song, for the most, but it's a song all the same, and nobody hearing it could doubt what it sings. And the song sings the loudest when you pick out each note.”
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