- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (7 May 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0747585970
- ISBN-13: 978-0747585978
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
So Many Ways to Begin Paperback – 7 May 2007
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`A close reading of ordinary lives ... tender and often
beautifully poetic' -- Stephanie Merritt, Observer
`Both compelling and convincing. A deeply rewarding read, serious
and often beautiful' -- Good Book Guide
`McGregor is a brilliant prose stylist, and here he excels at
making the provincial and the ordinary seem extraordinary' -- Sunday Times
`This is a wonderful novel; low-key but beautifully paced,
scattered with extraordinarily intense moments' -- Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski, Independent on Sunday
`This is an unforgettable novel' -- David Isaacson, Daily Telegraph
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I really enjoyed it. McGregor has a close and careful style that can illuminate the poetic within ordinary events. His two main characters, after their brief long distance romance as teenagers, settle down to a married life in which disappointment and depression become frequent occurrences. And yet, because of McGregor's sensitivity to nuance and atmosphere, and his affection for his characters, I found myself drawn into their lives, into the rooms in their house, sharing their small triumphs and their sadness with them.
The plot lines involving a mother who abandons her baby, another who shoulders the anger of this adopted son when he discovers the truth about his parentage in adult life, and a third who cruelly undermines her daughter's ambitions, are not particularly original or distinctive. Where a lesser novelist might have woven them into a standard work, McGregor once again skilfully helps us to see the remarkable within the everyday.
The basics of McGregor's novel is straight forward. David Carter has a facination for the mundane and ordinary artefacts of everyday life. His interest is so keen that he begins to collect ordinary artefacts, an interest which in turn leads David to eventually take up a job as a junior curatorial assistant. David enjoys what appears to be a normal and stable family life until he discovers that he was given away at birth to the family he now knows as his own. This triggers a search for his biological mother. Meanwhile, David meets and forms his own relationship with Eleanor and it is broadly this relationship and the search for his biological mother that the novel portrays.
The beginnings that the novel suggests are many, varied and interesting. Some of these beginnings are the many ways in which we might try to piece together the history that makes us who we are. It could be in a conversation between lovers where personal histories are revealed. It could be in the slip of the tongue as in the case of David's senile aunt, Julia, when she unwittingly reveals his origin. Or it could be in the collection of the everyday artefacts of life.
For a relatively new writer and for a second novel, McGregor in a quiet and subtle way tackles some big themes. For me one important example of such themes was the issue of personal identity. The novel asks questions such as who are we and what is it that makes us who we are? In addressing these issues McGregor brings a refreshing approach to answering them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lovely, captivating, rich, descriptive writing style. Really enjoyed my first experience of Jon Macgregor's craft, having heard him on BBC R4 recently.Published 22 months ago by Sharpster
This item was delivered very promptly and in excellent condition, as described
The packaging was designed to offer perfect protection and light weight
McGregor's is a... Read more
Good choice for a book club. It generated great, lengthy and wide ranging opportunities for discussion.Published on 28 Nov. 2014 by Mrs Julie A Lupton
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 morePublished on 28 Aug. 2014 by Sue
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 morePublished on 7 Mar. 2014 by Ms.K