Just the thing

16 06 2012

This isn’t the sort of thing that happens to someone like you by Jon McGregor

A man builds a tree house by a river, in anticipation of the coming flood. A sugar-beet crashes through a young woman’s windscreen. A boy sets fire to a barn. A pair of itinerant labourers sit by a lake, talking about shovels and sex, while fighter-planes fly low overhead and prepare for war.

Set in the flat and threatened fenland landscape, where the sky is dominant and the sea lurks just beyond the horizon, these delicate, dangerous, and sometimes deeply funny stories tell of things buried and unearthed, of familiar places made strange, and of lives where much is hidden, much is at risk, and tender moments are hard-won.

(This brief note appeared in a recent What Are You Reading? column in Times Higher Education.)

Jon McGregor is my favourite writer at the moment. After three outstanding novels (all highly recommended) he’s now delivered a wonderful collection of short stories. The writing is lyrical, poetic and haunting with many of the pieces containing an underlying menace. Set in the bleak, flat fens (with echoes of Swift’s Waterland) these are remarkable stories of strange and different lives and events and things that shouldn’t happen to someone like you. But they do.

It’s a terrific book and highly recommended. Jon McGregor’s website about the book includes further details about the location of each of the stories and is well worth exploring.


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