This is Jon McGregor’s second novel. The first was If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (London: Bloomsbury, 2003).
So Many Ways to Begin focusses on David, a man in his fifties or sixties, as he tries to find make sense of his life. A dedicated museum curator, David lovingly collects and catalogues artifacts from every stage of his life. The story is told through these items.
The use of physical objects, often worn or marked by the passage of time, gives this novel a lived-in feel. The characters feel real, physical, and worn like the objects they handle, keep or discard.
The result is a kind of ‘sentimental realism’; the events of everyday life are described in all their messiness (including some very honest sex-scenes), but this honesty feels tender rather than detached. McGregor is able to convey a lot of information with subtlety and emotional authenticity.