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So Many Ways to Begin [Hardcover]

Jon McGregor
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 13.65 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Aug 2006
'All the archives in the world weren't enough when he didn't know who, or what, he should be looking for and where he should be looking.' Coventry museum curator David Carter cannot help but wish for more: that his wife would still be the ambitious and sparkling Scottish girl he once found so irresistible; that his job could live up to the promise it once held; that his daughter's arrival could have brought her parents closer. But a few careless words spoken by his mother's friend Julia have left David restless with the knowledge that his whole life has been constructed around an untruth. And so he begins to catalogue his joys and disappointments, the migrations and arrivals, the intersecting lives around him, hoping to find the same breathless excitement in the artifacts of his own life as in those he handles at the museum; hoping that someday there will be someone to show them to. Because once, long ago, a young Irish girl called Mary Friel arrived in war-time London an innocent and left carrying a shame; a shame she still hopes can be diminished by a knock at the door of her Donegal home. There are so many ways to begin, and to live; so many ways to love, and not to love, and to begin again. Against the backdrop of post-WW2 Britain, Jon McGregor's lyrical, intimate novel explores what happens when our lives fail to take the turns we expect, and the ways we learn to let go of the people we might have been.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (7 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747579466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747579465
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 681,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon McGregor is the author of the critically acclaimed If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things and So Many Ways to Begin. He is the winner of the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award, and has been twice longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He was born in Bermuda in 1976. He grew up in Norfolk and now lives in Nottingham. Even the Dogs is his third novel.

(Photo credit: Neil Bennet)

Product Description

Review

'My book of the year. A magical, spellbinding, profound novel' Daily Telegraph on IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS 'A dream of a novel ... It is not every novelist who has the gift, as Jon McGregor does, of reminding his readers of that heaven in a wild flower, that infinity in a grain of sand' The Times on IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS 'Extraordinary ... McGregor's triumphant prose poem of ordinariness has a very contemporary kind of spirituality about it' Sunday Times on IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS 'The work of a burning new talent ... These individual, unremarkable lives are netted up onto the page with an extraordinary clarity, compassion and immediacy' Daily Mail on IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS

From the Publisher

Jon McGregor was shortlisted in the Best Newcomer category in
the 2004 British Book Awards and is winner of the Betty Trask Award and the
Somerset Maugham Prize. So Many Ways to Begin was longlisted for the 2006
Man Booker Prize. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing 4 Jun 2007
By JH
Format:Paperback
Having been utterly captivated by Jon McGregor's prose style in 'If nobody speaks of remarkable things', I opened 'So many ways to begin' with delicious anticipation. It does not disappoint. Whilst it does not have the instant panache of the beginning pages of his first novel, it beguiles and builds in a different way. The story of David Carter's journey through life works its way to and fro through memorabilia, building an intimate portrait of his marriage,his childhood passions and his not so brilliant career, and his search for his real birth mother. McGregor's prose is beautiful,poetic. I particularly enjoyed the interposing of alternative thoughts and behaviours that may or may not have happened, at key moments. They make you pause and consider, without stopping the flow of narrative or feeling heavy-handed. A lovely, lyrical book about everyday life.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow and reflective second novel 13 May 2007
Format:Paperback
I loved Jon McGregor's critically acclaimed debut so it was with nervous excitement that I awaited this follow-up. It is a different book: meandering but with the same clarity of expression which made `If Nobody Speaks...' such a privilege to read. The story follows Museum-Curator and adopted son David Carter through the course of his life. It is at once a paean to forgotten times and a celebration of the course of post-war British history. Through mementos from his life, David gradually integrates the past with the present and carries the reader along with the persistent tug of time. In many ways it reminded me of John Banville's Booker winning novel `The Sea'. It has that same longing, the same concepts of remembering and forgetting. But this is a superior novel. Jon McGregor is effortlessly poetic; this is easy-to-read and full of everyday occurrences rendered with the author's razor-sharp observation. Jon McGregor is an emerging gem of an author and this book will see his reputation continue to rise.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply the best book I have ever read. 7 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback
This is a rare novel. It is the story of the mundane, but extraordinary. It's difficult to explain it in a review in a way that will do it justice, so I don't think I'll try. Suffice it to say, McGregor writes with such beauty and such restrained emotion about the sliding doors of life that it is impossible not be moved by this book. I cried numerous times throughout it and at the end. There is a particular chapter that I re-read often and it one of those books that left me with the feeling of "someone else in the world thinks like me". This book already feels like an old friend and I think of it often; my sign of a great book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wholly absorbing read! 16 Aug 2006
Format:Hardcover
I loved "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" and rushed to buy this book as soon as it was published. It didn't disappoint. It is easier to understand and has a real "unputdownable" quality; the characters and their lives are beautifully drawn and revealed gradually as McGregor "drip feeds" his reader using literary, unpretentious language. I particularly like the way he withholds judgement or blame in this novel, thus posing hidden questions for his readers to answer. I found this to be a sad book in many ways, but also filled with hope, a particularly good choice for anyone born in the 40's or 50's perhaps!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite 19 Jun 2007
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Proof that 'If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things' was no one-off (how could writing that good possibly be a fluke), 'So Many Ways to Begin' again deals with ordinary people leading ordinary lives, but bearing the weight of events in the past that deeply mark their lives. The style is again fractured in time, non-linear, but through its analogy of a museum of mementos, it slowly and simply builds up a solid, authentic and deeply moving exhibit of family-life in post-war Britain.

For David, a young man in Coventry who has always dreamed of being a museum curator, a structured life where everything can be organised, labelled and its provenance traced, the discovery that he has been adopted as a child upsets the stable view he once had of the world. The author contrasts David's relationship with loving parents who aren't his own with his wife Eleanor's strict upbringing in Aberdeen, and charts the emotional journey both of them have to make together to understand who they are and how their upbringing has shaped their lives.

McGregor's prose is deceptively simple, but bears deep emotional force in those well-chosen words and situations, raising them to the level of pure artistry, forging poetic and subtle resonances to social behaviour and familial relationships, to the secrets people keep, the emotional weights they carry, and the impact they have on their lives and on those of the people around them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful story 27 Feb 2007
By M. Todd
Format:Hardcover
I've just finished the book and I have to say its the best one I've read in a while. It follows the story of David who was given up for adoption during the war and finds out by accident when he is in his twenties. It's a story about his beautiful romance with his wife and their family life together and also a story of their relationships with their parents. David's anger at his adoptive parents for deceiving him and his search for his natural mother are beautifully written and gripping. His wife, Eleanor and her volatile relationship with her mother that she cannot wait to escape and the effects it has on her in later life are truly heartbreaking.

A beautiful story, it had me crying at stages, though by no means is it depressing. You really get to identify with the characters and feel for them and I really felt involved in the story. The main theme of the book is family life, in all the different ways it happens, but I think my favourite parts were those about David and Eleanor's relationship over the years.

I have loved both of the authors book, this one is much easier to read and a far more gripping story. I intend to read any other books he writes. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Heartwarming and a very positive book, a really lovely, well written story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather hum-drum
I presume the author's celebrated first book was better. This is not a really entertaining or thought-provoking read, with characters that weren't engaging. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Sue
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not impressed - in fact I didn't finish reading it.
Published 25 days ago by lindsey evans
3.0 out of 5 stars Unresolved
This book was so totally absorbing for the first two thirds, beautifully written and observed but then I began to feel that nothing would ever be resolved or concluded . Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ms.K
5.0 out of 5 stars sensitive compelling read
This my third McGregor book I found this one a most enthralling read the ups and downs of married life given a twist of the main characters childhood background leads to an ending... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Judith Bates
3.0 out of 5 stars so many ways
The firs 9 pages are printed in italics this makes reading difficult the plot jumps around and the subject of mental health is very insensitively treated. Read more
Published 12 months ago by bill Matthews
2.0 out of 5 stars "There was no father pacing expectantly in the waiting room..."
I loved McGregor's `If nobody speaks of remarkable things' and I think I know what he was trying to do with this book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Eileen Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I quite enjoyed this book and appreciated the ending. Not as lingering in the memory as, 'if nobody speaks of remarkable things', which I really enjoyed, this is, nevertheless,... Read more
Published 14 months ago by ednaheap
4.0 out of 5 stars He's an awesome writer!
Not as good as "if no-one speaks of remarkable things" (which I can't recommend highly enough - amazing) as it's not so cleverly written but still in a unique style. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Just me and my thoughts.
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet gem of a book
I found this book a bit of a struggle to get into, but then found myself being drawn in. It describes the everyday and the ordinary with delicacy and immense respect. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. H. Bretts
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
McGregor makes the ordinary absolutely extra-ordinary. I particularly liked his sensitive and perceptive depiction of love and sex in a long-term marriage - not a feature of many... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Elaine Hepple
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