Risky in conception, hip and yet soulful, this is a prose poem of a novel -- intense, lyrical, and highly evocative -- with a mystery at its center, which keeps the reader in suspense until the final page. In a tour de force that could be described as Altmanesque, we are invited into the private lives of the residents of a quiet urban street in England over the course of a single day. In delicate, intricately observed closeup, we witness the hopes, fears, and unspoken despairs of a diverse community: the man with painfully scarred hands who tried in vain to save his wife from a burning house and who must now care for his young daughter alone; a group of young clubgoers just home from an all-night rave, sweetly high and mulling over vague dreams; the nervous young man at number 18 who collects weird urban junk and is haunted by the specter of unrequited love. The tranquillity of the street is shattered at day's end when a terrible accident occurs. This tragedy and an utterly surprising twist provide the momentum for the book. But it is the author's exquisite rendering of the ordinary, the everyday, that gives this novel its freshness, its sense of beauty, wonder, and hope. Rarely does a writer appear with so much music and poetry -- so much vision -- that he can make the world seem new.
McGregor's poignant, Booker-nominated debut examines in loving detail a day in the lives of the inhabitants of a single British block. It is a day like any other-a woman prepares breakfast for her family, boys play cricket, a man washes his car-until a terrible accident occurs, which is witnessed by all the neighbors but concealed from readers until the novel's end. Drifting from apartment to house to yard, McGregor reveals the stories found in each: there is the couple who fight bitterly and have brilliant sex; the man with hands scarred from trying, unsuccessfully, to save his wife from a fire; the aging veteran keeping from his wife the truth of his imminent demise. Weaving through these tales of the transcendental ordinary is the first-person narrative of a girl coming to terms with her unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand. Her lover's twin brother arrives to drive her to her parents, but doesn't tell her the truth about his brother's absence; the girl's mother has her own secrets. McGregor's rapt attention to the exquisiteness of daily life sometimes makes his details ring falsely portentous, and his unwavering focus on minutiae-rain, traffic lights-can be wearying. But as the man with the scarred hands remarks, "there are many things you could miss if you are not paying careful attention. There are remarkable things all the time." This is the guiding principle of McGregor's novel, one that requires patience but yields ample rewards. (Nov. 4) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.