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So Many Ways to Begin Paperback – 7 May 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • So Many Ways to Begin
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  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
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  • This Isn't The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You
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Product details

  • 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)
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Product description

Review

`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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Quiet very English novel about the importance of identity, knowing where you belong and to whom, about how damaged we can be by an abusive childhood, about frustrated ambitions and disappointments. Low key in so many ways but beautifully written with strong characterisation and absorbing too. He seems to focus on very ordinary lives as in If No-one speaks of Remarkable things.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like the way the book is written, however, I found the main character to be very unlikeable, quite cold and selfish in his behaviour towards his mother and his sick wife. A shame because i love this author and think he's very talented.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I guess I just prefer his previous book
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By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Jun. 2007
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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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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Format: Hardcover
In my reading group, we often have a range of reactions to the books we read and this lends a vitality to our discussions. However, when we read Jon McGregor's first book a couple of years ago, it received universal high praise, perhaps more than for anything we have read before or since. So this book, his second, had a lot to live up to.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The very title of Jon McGregor's novel,"So Many Ways to Begin" is enticing. One is likely to ask so many ways to begin what? But at the end of a longish read is the reader's initial enticement rewarded?

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.
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