The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor

McGregor, Jon - The Reservoir Tapes

Last summer I was in a bar in Corfu watching Liverpool beat Spurs 2-0 in the Champions League Cup Final. The previous summer I’d watched Liverpool lose the same final to Real Madrid by 3-1. In that match we were disadvantaged not only because our star striker, Mo Salah, broke his collarbone within the first half-hour (or had it broken for him by the Real defender, Sergio Ramos) but mainly because our goalie, Loris Karius, gifted two goals to Real, first by throwing a ball against an opposition player which bounced back into the net, and then by letting a ball slip through his hands.

It was an appalling goalkeeping performance, possibly the worst ever seen in a major final, although not entirely surprising.  Karius had been malfunctioning all season and didn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Former Man. U. and England right back, now football pundit, Gary Neville, commenting on an earlier game, summed it up perfectly by saying that Karius just kept on running into the same glass door.

It takes one to know one. The same kept-on-running accusation could be applied to me just now – if you’ve read my last blog you’ll know I decided McGregor’s award winning Reservoir 13 wasn’t really for me. So why butt my head against the same glass window by trying this spin-off/prequel?

The simple answer is that I heard The Reservoir Tapes on the radio – I actually thought this was what I was getting when I bought Reservoir 13 – because The Reservoir Tapes isn’t a novel, it’s a series of stories commissioned for broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

The premise, as in Reservoir 13, is that a thirteen year old girl, Rebecca Shaw, is missing.  However whereas Reservoir 13 is structured so that each of its 13 chapters represents the start of a new year, The Reservoir Tapes gives us 15 stories each from the point of view of a different protagonist: Rebecca’s mother, Charlotte; Vicky, who works in the visitor centre near where Rebecca was last seen; Deepak, who had met Rebecca when she’d holidayed in the village the previous summer; Graham, who leads walks in the hills, and so on. Each story presents new insights, new possibilities.

As in Reservoir 13, Rebecca’s disappearance (spoiler alert) is never resolved.  But whereas in the novel the lack of closure was a let-down, in this format it seems fitting, somehow. (And, better still, I now have a theory…)

Rating: ** Worth reading

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