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So Many Ways to Begin: A Novel

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  801 ratings  ·  110 reviews
Now in paperback for the first time, So Many Ways to Begin is a potent examination of family and memory, a look at what happens when life forces you to let go of the person you might have been. David Carter is an obsessive collector, and the curator of the local history museum. In addition to overseeing the community's archives, he has, since boyhood, diligently archived t ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,648)
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Teresa
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 shou
...more
Bruce
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 w
...more
Debnance
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 be ...more
Ian Mapp
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 Macgr
...more
Laala Alghata
“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 Begin

Jon 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
...more
AmandaLil
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
...more
☮Karen
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
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.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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
...more
Gerund
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 sta
...more
Elizabeth
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 mil
...more
Nancyewhite
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 par
...more
Ruthie
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 ...more
Beth Anne
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 ever
...more
Debra
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 McGre ...more
Sibyl
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 ...more
Semnebune
Jon McGregor este un autor special, despre care nu știam aproape nimic înainte să-mi cadă în mână acest roman. Am fjonmcgost complet luată pe nepregătite când m-am văzut în ipostaza de a-mi pune întrebări privind asemănările dintre viața părinților mei și cea a lui Eleonor și David, dacă au avut parte de același tip de dezamăgiri sau dacă istoria lor familială i-a afectat la fel de mult. Apoi mi-am pus problema relațiilor de tip părinte-copil și am schimbat, pe rând, locul cu fiecare personaj, a ...more
Veronica Zundel
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'.
Simon
What I liked: the observation and accretion of detail about the evolution of a marriage and family relationships. The way in which the protagonist tries to assemble family artefacts and derive meaning from them, and his exploration of his own family history. The unexpected but uplifting ending.
Less keen on: languid pacing.
Bill
So Many Ways to Begin traces the life of David Carter and his relatives in England and Scotland. There lives are fairly ordinary but the story was kind of depressing. Life wasn't always very good to these people, but neither were they most resilient group. The only time they were able to bounce back from disappoint was at the end of the story, so, while not ending on high note, it didn't end on depressing note either.

I was motivated to check the age of the author because so many characters that
...more
Glenda
I won this book on Goodreads giveaway.
Since he was a young boy, David has been interested in museums, in physical objects that tell of a moment in time. The story is told as though David is going through a box of items, and each chapter is the memory or memories attached to the items that he has saved from various times in his life. David’s life is shattered by a long-held secret accidentally revealed by a family friend. Now he feels like his whole life and the items he has cataloged about his l
...more
Josh Ang
Jon McGregor's debut novel 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' made a huge impact on me, transforming the way I saw prose poems, and giving me a keener sense the sound and feel of words and sentences. The work had a beauty that was simple, amplifying the often ordinary and unremarkable. It was quiet and yet it resonated.





With such a strong first novel, it only made for a tough act to follow. McGregor's second novel, 'So Many Ways to Begin', draws from everyday objects and keepsakes as starti
...more
Cathy
First, let me say “Thank You” to the folks at Bloomsbury and Goodreads “First-Reads” for the opportunity to put a copy of McGregor’s “So Many Ways To Begin” into my hands.
“So Many Ways To Begin“ is an apt title for the journey of the protagonist, David Carter. McGregor takes an ordinary story and has it unfold through episodic chapters revolving around collected items linked to David’s life. This collection provides the framework for the story. Though not sequential in nature, the reader is prov
...more
Susan
How do we start a story? On starting So Many Ways to Begin I wondered whether listing, as McGregor does at the beginning of each chapter, a number of family memorabilia, could pull me into the story. It does, not because it is an effective way to start, but rather because real things can only be pale reminders of lived feelings, and those feelings are the real start and ending of McGregor's story. I had thought that the book was extremely sad, given that one character, David Carter, was obsessed ...more
Carrie
May 02, 2010 Carrie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Shelves: books-i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alin G.
Prezentarile acestui roman se refera invariabil la faptul ca protagonistul, David Carter, afla printr-o intamplare despre faptul ca fusese adoptat, motiv pentru care porneste in cautarea mamei adevarate. Din fericire romanul nu este chiar atat de bidimensional. Autorul creeaza mai degraba o cronica a protagonistului sau si nu se plafoneaza pe o singura idee.

Ba mai mult, David Carter este un personaj minutios prezentat; pasiunea sa pentru istorie va avea de multe ori repercursiuni in viata sa de
...more
Judith
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 persona
...more
Zoë
"These things, the way they fall into place. The people we would be if these things were otherwise."

So Many Ways To Begin by Jon McGregor's second novel, the touching and complicated story of David Carter and the lives that are tangled into his. David is a collector of things, a man who dreamed of having his own museum since he was a little boy, who carried home rejected belongings from former bomb sites in England as his own pieces of history. Every object in David's collection tells a story,
...more
Melanie Coombes
I think this was such a beautifully written book. It took me a few pages to get into the writing style. There are no quotation marks in the character's dialogue. I think the Sunday Times described the author as a brilliant prose stylist. (and I would have to agree!)
The story is about David Carter who is a collector and curator at a local museum. When a senile relative lets slip a long buried family secret, David is forced to consider that his whole life may have been constructed around a lie. Th
...more
Joe Dempsey
I stumbled across Jon McGregor's work whilst surfing the 'If you like this...' buttons on Amazon one evening. His debut, "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" allowed the first chapter to be read online, which I duly did. I was stunned by the novel's opening, which is truly beautiful, and, despite it's very 'everyday' setting, exudes an almost cinematic sense of the epic. This novel's, often explored theme of the 'extra-ordinary within the ordinary' is explored further in this, his second book ...more
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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...
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things 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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“Every step of the road was just as she'd dreamt it all the time she'd been away. Every step took her further away from the smoke and the noise and the loneliness and fear of the city she'd left behind. Every step drew her deeper into the hollows of the landscape, the green hills and shining rivers and mist-tangled treetops.” 2 likes
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