Jon McGregor: Reservoir 13

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Jon McGregor Reservoir 13
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Reservoir 13: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Reservoir 13 Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must. As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods — mating and fighting, hunting and dying. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.

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Reservoir 13

Jon McGregor

The river is moving.

The blackbird must be flying.

— Wallace Stevens


i. m.

Alistair McGregor



They gathered at the car park in the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do. It was cold and there was little conversation. There were questions that weren’t being asked. The missing girl’s name was Rebecca Shaw. When last seen she’d been wearing a white hooded top. A mist hung low across the moor and the ground was frozen hard. They were given instructions and then they moved off, their boots crunching on the stiffened ground and their tracks fading behind them as the heather sprang back into shape. She was five feet tall, with dark-blonde hair. She had been missing for hours. They kept their eyes down and they didn’t speak and they wondered what they might find. The only sounds were footsteps and dogs barking along the road and faintly a helicopter from the reservoirs. The helicopter had been out all night and found nothing, its searchlight skimming across the heather and surging brown streams. Jackson’s sheep had taken the fear and scattered through a broken gate, and he’d been up all hours bringing them back. The mountain-rescue teams and the cave teams and the police had found nothing, and at midnight a search had been called. It hadn’t taken much to raise the volunteers. Half the village was out already, talking about what could have happened. This was no time of year to have gone up on the hill, it was said. Some of the people who come this way don’t know how sharply the weather can turn. How quickly darkness falls. Some of them don’t seem to know there are places a mobile phone won’t work. The girl’s family had come up for the New Year, and were staying in one of the barn conversions at the Hunter place. They’d come running into the village at dusk, shouting. It was a cold night to have been out on the hill. She’s likely just hiding, people said. She’ll be down in a clough. Turned her ankle. She’ll be aiming to give her parents a fright. There was a lot of this. People just wanted to open their mouths and talk, and they didn’t much mind what came out. By first light the mist had cleared. From the top of the moor when people turned they could see the village: the beech wood and the allotments, the church tower and the cricket ground, the river and the quarry and the cement works by the main road into town. There was plenty of ground to cover, and so many places she could be. They moved on. There was an occasional flash of light from the traffic on the motorway, just visible along the horizon. The reservoirs were a flat metallic grey. A thick band of rain was coming in. The ground was softer now, the oily brown water seeping up around their boots. A news helicopter flew low along the line of volunteers. It was a job not to look up and wave. Later the police held a press conference in the Gladstone, but they had nothing to announce beyond what was already known. The missing girl’s name was Rebecca Shaw. She was thirteen years old. When last seen she’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans, and canvas shoes. She was five feet tall, with straight, dark-blonde, shoulder-length hair. Members of the public were urged to contact the police if they saw anyone fitting the description. The search would resume when the weather allowed. In the evening over the square there was a glow of television lights and smoke rising from generators and raised voices coming from the yard behind the pub. Doubts were beginning to emerge.

At midnight when the year turned there were fireworks going up from the towns beyond the valley but they were too far off for the sound to carry and no one came out to watch. The dance at the village hall was cancelled, and although the Gladstone was full there was no mood for celebration. Tony closed the bar at half past the hour and everyone made their way home. Only the police stayed out in the streets, gathered around their vans or heading back into the hills. In the morning the rain started up once again. Water coursed from the swollen peat beds quickly through the cloughs and down the stepped paths which fell from the edge of the moor. The river thickened with silt from the hills and plumed across the weirs. On the moor there were flags marking where the parents said they’d walked. The flags furled and snapped in the wind. At the visitor centre television trucks filled the car park and journalists started to gather. In the village hall the trestle tables were laid with green cups and saucers, the urns rising to the boil and the smell of bacon cobs drifting out into the rain. At the Hunter place there were voices coming from the barn conversion where the parents were staying, loud enough that the policeman outside could hear. Jess Hunter came over from the main house with a mug of tea. A helicopter flew in from the reservoirs, banking slowly along the river and passing over the weir and the quarry and the woods. The divers were going through the river again. A group of journalists waited for the shot, standing behind a cordon by the packhorse bridge, cameras aimed at the empty stretch of water, the breath clouding over their heads. In the lower field two of Jackson’s boys were kneeling beside a fallen ewe. There was a racket of camera shutters as the first diver appeared, the wetsuited head sleek and slow through the water. A second diver came round the bend, and a third. They took turns ducking through the arch in the bridge and then they were out of sight. The camera crews jerked their cameras from the tripods and began folding everything away. One of the Jackson boys bucked a quad bike across the field and told the journalists to move. The river ran empty and quick. The cement works was shut down to allow for a search. In a week the first snowdrops emerged along the verges past the cricket ground, while it seemed winter yet had a way to go. At the school in the staffroom the teachers kept their coats on and waited. Everything that might be said seemed like the wrong thing to say. The heating pipes made a rattling noise that most of them were used to and the mood in the room unstiffened. Miss Dale asked Ms French if her mother was any better, and Ms French outlined the ways in which she was not. There was a silence again in the room and the tapping of the radiator. Mrs Simpson came in and thanked them for the early start. They all said of course it wasn’t a problem. Under the circumstances. Mrs Simpson said the plan was to follow their lessons as normal but be ready to talk about the situation if the children asked. Which it seemed likely they would. There was a knock at the door and Jones the caretaker stepped in to say the heating would be working soon. Mrs Simpson asked him to make sure the yard was gritted. He gave her a look which suggested there’d been no need to ask. When the children were brought to school Mrs Simpson stood at the gate to welcome them. The parents lingered once the children had gone inside, watching the doors being locked. Some of them looked as though they could stand there all day. At the bus stop the older children waited for the bus to the secondary school in town. They were teenagers now. It was the first day back but they weren’t saying much. It was cold and they had hoods pulled tightly over their heads. All day they would be asked about the missing girl, as if they knew anything more than they’d heard on the news. Lynsey Smith said it was a safe bet Ms Bowman would ask if they needed to chat. She did finger-quotes around the word chat. Deepak said at least it would be a way of getting out of French. Sophie looked away, and saw Andrew waiting at the other bus stop with Irene, his mother. He was the same age as they were but he went to a special school. Their bus pulled up and James warned Liam not to make up any bullshit about Becky Shaw. It snowed and the snow settled thickly. There was a service at the church. The vicar asked the police to keep the media away. Anyone was welcome to attend, she said, but she wanted no photography or recording, no waving of notebooks. She wanted no spectacle made of a community caught in the agony of prayer. The wardens put out extra chairs, but people were still left standing along the aisles. The men who weren’t used to being in church stood with their hats bent into their hands, leaning against the ends of the pews. Some folded their arms, expectantly. The regulars offered them service books opened to the correct page. The vicar, Jane Hughes, said she hoped no one had come looking for answers. She said she hoped no one was asking for comfort. There is no comfort in the situation we find ourselves in today, she said. There is no comfort for the girl’s parents, or for the family members who have travelled to the village to support them. No comfort for the police officers who have been involved in the search. We can only trust that we might meet God among us in these times of trouble. Only ask that we not allow ourselves to be overcome by a grief which is not ours to indulge but instead be uplifted by faith and enabled to help that suffering family in whatever way we are called to do. She paused, and closed her eyes. She held out her hands in a gesture she hoped might resemble prayer. The men who had their arms folded kept them folded. The warden rang the bell three times and the sound carried out through the brightening morning and along the valley as far as the old quarry. At the end of the month the sun came out and the fields softened. The still air shook to the thump of melting rooftop snow. There were rumours and only rumours of where the parents might be now. They were beside themselves, it was said.

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