In this potent examination of family and memory, Jon McGregor charts one man's voyage of self-discovery. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, So Many Ways to Begin is rich in the intimate details that shape a life, the subtle strain that defines human relationships, and the personal history that forms identity. David Carter, the novel's protagonist, takes a keen interest in history as a boy. Encouraged by his doting Aunt Julia, he begins collecting the things that tell his story: a birth certificate, school report cards, annotated cinema and train tickets. After finishing school, he finds the perfect job for his lifetime obsession-curator at a local history museum. His professional and romantic lives take shape as his beloved aunt and mentor's unravels. Lost in a fog of senility, Julia lets slip that David had been adopted. Over the course of the next decades, as David and his wife Eleanor live out their lives-struggling through early marriage, professional disappointments, the birth of their daughter, Eleanor's depression, and an affair that ends badly- David attempts to physically piece together his past, finding meaning and connection where he least expects it.
David Carter grows up happy in post-WWII Coventry, England, where he combs bomb sites for things to collect and dreams of one day running his own museum. He lands a job at a local museum and, at age 22, learns from a mentally ill family friend that he was adopted as an infant. Irate and bewildered, David struggles to comprehend "how such a lie had been incorporated into official history" as he begins his adult life. His marriage to Eleanor provides some direction, but the couple is often rudderless, and McGregor (If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things) charts with a calculated dreariness David's frustrated attempts to locate his birth mother, Eleanor's terrible depressions, their professional letdowns, a few moments of happiness and the way "it wasn't what they'd imagined, this life." Once retired, David is introduced to the Internet, which yields a promising lead in his quest to find his birth mother. Melancholy permeates every page; readers looking for an earnest downer can't go wrong. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
March 18, 2007
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