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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,694 Ratings  ·  715 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, 275 pages
Published November 4th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 2002)
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Stefan Christensen I'm a bit late, but I cried at the ending. Not sure if they were tears of joy or sadness. But it was beautiful either way.

Community Reviews

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Dolors
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 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
Issicratea
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1990-2010, reviewed
I read this novel as a follow-up to Jon McGregor’s superb Reservoir 13, which was my standout contemporary read of 2017. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (henceforth INSoRT) was McGregor’s first novel, published in 2002, when he was twenty-six years old and a complete unknown. It put him straight on the literary map when it was longlisted for the Booker Prize, as an out-of-left-field choice.

I didn’t read INSoRT at the time, and I’m not too sure I would have liked it if I did, although it’s
...more
Neil
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A strangely apposite time to read this book. Of the two main threads in the novel, one takes place on the last day of summer in 1997 which is the day Princess Diana died. In recent days in the UK, that has been in the media a lot as it was twenty years ago and various remembrances have taken place. Whatever your views of Princess Diana, this means that most people reading this book will have a recollection of things that happened to them on that day. I remember learning about the accident becaus ...more
Alex Csicsek
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Chrissie
Before picking up this book you should know a few things.
- Punctuation is lacking.
- Characters are for the most part not given names.
- This is a mystery, a puzzle to be solved.

Due to lack of punctuation perhaps an audiobook is the format to choose? I am glad I did.

Characters are identified through their physical attributes, their behavioral ticks and the number of their lodging on a street in a town somewhere in northern England. A completely unremarkable town and unremarkable people. There
...more
Bill
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, lit-fiction
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
Sarah
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Deea
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
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
Giedre
There is nothing remarkable about the characters of this book. They are ordinary neighbors of a run-down neighborhood, living their ordinary lives, going through their ordinary routines, talking about ordinary things. Yet Jon McGregor, the author of "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" subtly shows us that the ordinary can be and is remarkable. He traces the lives of a group of people living in the same street, connected only by this fact, during a period of one day. We also get to know one o ...more
Gumble's Yard
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I came to this book many years after its publication after reading McGregor’s latest brilliant book Reservoir 13, and was interested to read his debut novel (also Booker longlisted like 3 of his four novels to date).

What I found interesting was to contrast the two books

Loaded Gun: One of the most fascinating aspects of “Reservoir 13” is that is starts with what seems to be the obvious plot point – the disappearance of the teenage girl – and, in contrast to normal fictional practice, never attemp
...more
Irene
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book had so little in the way of plot or character development (in fact, we never learn the name of nearly everyone) that I am not sure it qualifies as a novel. I am surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe the relatively short length kept me from losing patience with the highly descriptive tone of it. This is the account of one late summer day in the lives of the residents on a block of flats. I felt like a voyeur as the literary camera swung into flat after flat exposing the ac ...more
Ian Kirkpatrick
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
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
Robert Beveridge
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
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
Alana
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if "poetic prose" is a thing, but that's how I would classify this. McGregor uses beautifully poetic language to describe the wonders of the mundane, the captured simple moments that define life and make it worth living, but that we so often take for granted. Yes, there is an underlying heavy moment that's hinted at in the very beginning, and the novel builds towards that climax throughout, but the stories that are weaved together are those of ordinary lives lived by ordinary people ...more
Barry
Jul 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara Williams
A book that beautifuly explores the awe in the mundane, that explores the characters in this one neighbourhood in England and follows them around as they go on about their lives. A marvellous book, but not for everyone. If anything, it will come across as boring to the average reader but it really is only an exercise of the quotidian. The novel leads up to this one main event at its end and it flicks on from the past to the present. It is a slow paced book, with the most detailed descriptions, b ...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Roger Brunyate
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories
Our Town

I first encountered Jon McGregor through his 2012 collection of stories, This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, brilliant, oblique, some wildly inventive, all touchingly human. So I was prepared for something quite unusual from this, his first novel, 2002 Booker nominee and winner of the Somerset Maugham award. But I was not expecting something that, though written in prose, is virtually a poem, beginning thus:
If you listen, you can hear it.
The city, it sings.
If y
...more
Mark Hebwood
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
JK
Jul 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
I have heard people rave about this book like it was their own work of art. I really can't see what the fuss is all about with this one. There are some little nuances that I really enjoyed, but overall I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would (or, indeed, how much I'd been told I would).

It began, basically, with "Something has happened. I'm not telling you what is was, yet, but it was a TRAGEDY" and I had to keep reading until almost the final page to find out what it was. And what it was,
...more
Mark Hitchcock
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Mary
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: Booker short-list
Shelves: 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.
Shirley
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I really liked this. It took me a while to get used to the writing style, but about a third of the way through I was hooked. It was beautifully written and one that I would love to read again. I loved the way the book forced me to examine my own life and outlook, and I found reading this an almost cathartic experience. A very powerful book, yet simply written.
Frank
Jun 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature, english
An experiment in fragmentation and alienation. But it rarely hits the mark. Mostly it reads like a self indulgence in wilful obscurity.
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101 Books to Read...: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things 6 15 Oct 28, 2017 11:49AM  
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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. Even the Dogs was published in 2010 and his newest work, Reservoir 13 ...more
More about Jon McGregor

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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?” 110 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.”
60 likes
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