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53 Reviews
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing
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...
Published on 4 Jun 2007 by JH

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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
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...
Published on 13 May 2007 by Sam J. Ruddock


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very impressive, 30 May 2007
By 
Katherine Read "Katherine" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Paperback)
This is the 1st novel I have read by McGregor and I will certainly now go out and get his 1st one. I bought this to take on holiday but have already almost finished it. He writes beautifully about the lives of ordinary people in a style which encourages the reader to make comparisons with their own experiences. I will certainly be giving this book a future present to friends.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally Moving, 16 Jan 2007
By 
R. P. Randall (Nottinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Hardcover)
The spare, understated style belies the complex, powerful emotions contained in this beautifully written and exceptionally moving story of what might appear to be an ordinary family. As a young adult, museum curator David Carter discovers by accident that he was adopted as a baby, and this knowledge haunts him throughout his life. While his wife suffers with the fallout from her own abusive childhood and struggles with depression, trying to bring up their daughter without inflicting the pain her own mother inflicted on her, David grows increasingly lonely and alienated from his family. The bittersweet conclusion left me with a lump in my throat and McGregor's characters ensconced in my heart. I loved his first novel, "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things"; I think this one is many times better. I can't wait for his next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mundane and marvellous, 22 Nov 2007
By 
NB (Middlesbrough, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Paperback)
Jon McGregor is the kind of writer I wish I found more often. His first novel was recommended as a novel where not much happens but everything happens.His second novel is more of the same beautifully written, concise, authentic prose.

Writing about `real' life is a skill. Some writers seem to think being gritty and bleak is authentic, that the more depressing a situation the more valid.

From bombed-out Coventry to a changed Northern Ireland, back to wartime London and a desolate Scottish quayside, McGregor portrays the mundane, everyday lives of curator David Carter, his wife Eleanor and the families they came from.

Exploring complex themes without the finished work feeling laboured or try-too-hard
'So Many Ways to begin' takes in failed ambitions, family secrets, resentment and what goes on behind closed doors through a story that skitters along, back and forth in time, with intense moments of poetry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real life and real love!, 14 Nov 2007
By 
Book Worm (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Paperback)
This book was a bit slow to start off with, I was unsure, faltering as to whether I would continue or not, but I am so glad I persevered. It tells the story of ordinary people, but the emotion and language are extraordinary. You feel their pain, their hurt, their highs their lows, frustrations, disappointemnts, it is wonderfully written. There are a few passages where I wept openly at the beauty of the phrasing. It is one of the most beautifully told stories of love and life. And at times it just really touched my heart, I felt like I could have written it, for anyone who has ever loved, could see themselves in some of the passages, and recognise in a heartbeat, the emotions being described. I think this book is a treasure, it is probably not for eveyone, but I already look forward to re-reading it. It just struck such a chord in me and stayed with me for days.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where would you begin?, 2 July 2007
By 
N. Green "tenshi06" (Oxford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Paperback)
One of the most simple, yet captivating books I have ever come across! Jon McGregor's "So many ways to begin" have you going through so many different emotions. The book follows a middle aged man, a shocking discovery about himself and his heritage makes him think about how to begin telling his story. His discovery is the many small beginnings that he has had within his life. The beginning of a career, love, parenthood and so on. The book is so cleverly written that you find yourself comparing your little beginning and experiences with that of the main character. You cannot help but will him on through the story to follow up with his one true desire, to find the strength that he has been lacking through out the years to pursue his past and look forward to his future.

This book is truly a masterpiece and a wonderful read. There is no particular type of reader that would enjoy it more than any other because as I have experiences through the people close to me that have read the book, it manages to fully captivate a wide audience. Do give it a try, you will not be disappointed!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Ordinary" lives, 6 April 2011
This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Paperback)
This is not a conventional love story. It tells the story of David, who has a fascination for the mundane and ordinary artefacts of everyday life. He becomes a museum curator and through chapters about ephemera of his life we learn of his childhood, of his career and most importantly to the book, about his search for a birth mother he only found out about late in his life.

There are a number of different strands to this beautifully written book but the one that moved me the most is that of David's relationship with his wife. There is no rosy glow of romance. We learn of the downs as well as the ups. They both suffer failure and try to cope with their own, and each others, shortcomings. They are the sort of ordinary people we meet every day. But the thing that makes David and Eleanor different is their tender love for one another. They are redeemed.

The novel is ultimately a story of "ordinary" lives which are given importance and significance because of the redeeming, transforming of love. It is about the importance of who we think we are, and to whom we are significant.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! Even better than I dared hoped for, 26 July 2006
By 
L. Webster (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Hardcover)
Some English writers read as though they are trying too hard - it's all too self conscious, as though it is an English essay. It's not a feeling you'll experience when reading Jon McGregor's new novel. The graceful prose never distracts or detracts from the absorbing story and the lives of characters who are created with both warmth and a lightness of touch which allows the reader to make them their own. Normally I like to read very quickly; with this novel I had to slow myself down so that I could carry on living within it. The only problem with having been unable to resist buying the hardback is that I shall feel peevish that I don't have it to read for the first time when it comes out in paperback!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This is some small piece of where I began", 29 Mar 2007
This review is from: So Many Ways to Begin (Hardcover)
Haunting and intimate, Jon McGregor's soulful second novel recounts one man's journey to discover his past. David Carter has spent most of his adult life troubled by his present and by the mother that he never knew. As the novel begins with Mary, a lonely young Irish girl, who abandons her home in Donegal and travels to England to apprentice herself as a domestic on the eve of the Second World War.

Intent to be invisible as only a servant can, Mary keeps her head down and learns to go about her daily business "so that everyone could pretend you weren't even there." She works hard at saving money to take back to her family, and her days filled with silent, passive routine, but for Mary it isn't always easy to be invisible.

Mary cannot help but catch the eye of her employer and eventually she gets pregnant. She ends up having the baby at a local London hospital and then mysteriously vanishes; perhaps back to Ireland, her circumstances typical of the way it always happened in those days, "unfortunate pregnancies kept a secret, or else ignored, unstated, and in some cases, even denied."

More to the heart of the novel is David's story. David has attempted to build a life for himself and his Scottish wife Eleanor in Coventry after his parents left London at the end of the war. As a child, David, becomes an avid collector of bric-a-brac, spurred on by the fact that he never really knows much about his family or where he grew up, or what happened in the war and what his mother went through at home when the bombing was going on.

Encouraged by his adopted Aunt Julia who takes him to various museums, David develops an interest in history, "the same thrill of old stories made new." And as an adult, he obtains employment as Curatorial Assistant Coventry's Municipal Art Gallery and Museum where he immerses himself in the exhibitions and detritus of the past, looking after these physical traces of history, with their density of memory and time.

When Aunt Julia however, is hospitalized with Alzheimer's disease, she divulges a terrible secret, which shakes David's insular world to the very core. The story is simple enough, when Julia and David's mother Dorothy were working as nurses during the War, there was a girl and she had a baby she wasn't supposed to have, she gave the care of the baby to someone else, and then she suddenly disappeared.

This realization catapults David into a situation that unravels all of his confidence and self-assurance. But as he struggles to cope with the realities of his past, he must also manage Eleanor's sudden depression, thrust into the role of shouldering his wife's disappointments over the failure of her academic hopes. David soon learns that the real story about his past is far more complicated than anything he can gather together in a pair of photo albums and a scrapbook.

The need for David to know becomes an insatiable hunger, with weeks and months going by when he can think of nothing else, can hear nothing else, except of course Julia's startling comment, "of course we never did see the poor girl again." As David's long-lost mother becomes representative of all of his joys and failures at life and McGregor paints his protagonist as constantly caught in an emotional dilemma, Eleanor on the one side, Dorothy on the other, and the ghost of Mary constantly washing over him.

Drenched in English post war period detail and exquisitely written, So Many Ways to Begin is all about the small joys of life and about how our lives can be often changed and moved by much smaller cues such as chance meetings and overheard conversations, often at a moments notice. Life here is constantly altered and readjusted, always attuned to the course of things, "history is made by a million fractional moments too numerous to calibrate or observe or record." Mike Leonard March 07.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 18 May 2013
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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 novels!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's well written but a bit ho hum, 9 Jan 2013
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I found it all a bit dull I'm afraid. The characters were just a bit flat and grey as was the plot. I think this was intentional - ie it was a story about ordinary folk leading pretty ordinary lives. However, it became so ordinary that I couldn't really see the point of it. If nobody speaks of remarkable things had a life about it that seemed to be lacking in this. It is well written but just doesn't have any sparkle.
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So Many Ways to Begin
So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor (Paperback - 7 May 2007)
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