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3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 March 2012
I have really mixed feelings about this book. McGregor writes well, and indeed this short story collection showcases his wide range of writing skills which are used to convey the characters and situations very cleverly. But therein lies my main problem with the book too - too often it seems that the stories are being used to show off that talent and range of styles rather to to create an enjoyable experience for the reader. It is more art than entertainment at times.

Most of the stories are short, indeed, one is less than half a page and one is only one line. Whilst they are all well crafted - even the one liner - they are often too short for the reader to become engaged with the characters, and this is reinforced by the amost unremittingly bleak situations which make up the stories. The characters seem resigned to their fate, and there is little hope of better times to be found in this collection.

Well written, but for me at least, not very enjoyable.
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on 11 March 2012
Between the covers of this book of short stories you will encounter everything from the sublime to the totally ridiculous."In Winter in the Sky" is a good example of both.It is a beautifully written and well constructed story of the developing relationship between a male and female.The former carries a very heavy secret from the night of their first date.McGregor devotes every second page to the rather crude drafts of the main lady,an aspiring writer.This is where you begin to realize that the author sometimes prioritizes art and the desire to be different over reader interest.
"Supplementary Notes to the Testimony of Appellants A & B" reads like a tedious report written in a police station. It is very much out of sync with the subtle creativity of most of the collection. "The Remains" ends with the words,"Have Yet to Be Found" repeated over and over for almost two pages. The final story, "Memorial Stone" comprises four pages of placenames! Perhaps I'm missing something very deep. Somebody please enlighten me if I am.
That's the rant off my chest.Any lover of creative,mood-setting,different(!) writing will revel in this book. the author has a wonderful ability the create a sense of place as well as a sense of a person.You will be smitten with all the emotions. "We Wave and Call" will stay with you for a long time for its ingenious build up to a devastating ending.
The book should have ended with "I'll Buy You a Shovel". Two travelling labourers in a caravan,with an upmarket wedding reception going on nearby will give you moments of great pathos and of great hilarity.
The sublime certainly outweighs the ridiculous.
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on 24 November 2013
In his three novels, we have come to know Jon McGregor for his experimental approach to the novel. Here in this collection of short stories, This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, that approach of experimenting is continued. McGregor is also know for his novels that deal with ordinary working class folk and here again in this collection of short stories McGregor's subject matter highlights the lives of ordinary folk.

The stories are varied in terms of length and subject matter. They range from a single sentence that constitutes a story to full length short stories. If there is an underlying unifying issue that connects the stories together it could be said to be place. The book is structured on the basis of areas in Lincolnshire. McGregor then gives us the names of towns and villages that form part of the geographical area. This leaves the reader with the impression that one of things McGregor is doing in the collection is to explore the impact of living in a particular place.

McGregor seems to take people from the places where his stories are set and then briefly explore an issue. So in the story Keeping Watch Over the Sheep, a man who is in dispute with his partner no longer has contact with his daughter and he does his best to see her in her first nativity school play. But of course that is not the sort of thing that happens to someone like me or you.

Whether or not the reader is comfortable with McGregor's experiments, this is what gives these stories their edge. In The Winter Sky, one gets the impression that McGregor is playing around with the composition of a short story. The pages that carry the narrative are juxtaposed with pages of what looks like notes for expanding the story. The notes have markings and lines drawn through the sentences, etc. While in If it Keeps Raining, McGregor seems to be trying to ascertain the possibility of experiencing the same thing in different ways.

McGregor is deft at building up tension and expectation as he does in the story We Wave and Call. I also admired McGregor's ability to work within the constraints of the short story form and reveal things in an efficient and timely manner. For example, instead of using specific narrative moments to tells us things about his characters, things are revealed by actions and through the course of the stories' main narrative drive.

Some of the stories convey weird and surreal-like experiences as in the experience of the café worker in French Tea

For all my admiration of McGregor's experimentation and the freshness of the stories, I was nonetheless left feeling that something was missing. For me McGregor's emphasis on experimentation was done at the expense of delivering stories that had little emotional impact on me.
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on 16 March 2012
Having enjoyed Jon McGregor's novels in the past I had high expectations for his new short story collection. I was not disappointed. These are fantastically created tales of life with a strong connecting theme of place. I had previously read one of the stories from the collection, 'Wires' when it came runner up in the BBC National Short Story Competition last year but as a full collection the stories somehow become even more powerful. Thoroughly recommended !
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on 10 May 2015
Four stars for some stories, particularly the two that the blurb at the back states were both second in the BBC Short Story Award competition two years running. One star for others, like the one line story. I don't think one line is a story (although I read a fifty word one once that was excellent, although perhaps not really a story). I suppose it depends on what you think makes a story. The author can clearly write; his longer stories are testament to that, but I did find the style a bit pretentious and the very short stories are self-conscious, I thought. Maybe trying to do something that was a bit different, but it didn't work for me.
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on 23 January 2015
For all the craft and attention to detail these stories often lack the spark of human sympathy which would draw the reader in. They are cold stories set in a bleak landscape and read a little like something which might have been written by a cleverly programmed computer, or possibly an alien of superior intellect. The characters are mostly listless and apathetic, resigned to or oblivious of the sadness and emptiness of their lives. I found that I did not have the will to read more than three quarters of the collection, so may have missed some uplifting gems, but it seems unlikely.
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on 30 April 2015
McGregor's collection of short stories beautifully demonstrate rarely written aspects of the human condition. As with his novels, often what is not said in these stories is just as important as what is, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about the motives and intentions of the characters.

I would recommend this book as an introduction to McGregor's writing style before committing to his novels. McGregor is a 'thinking mans' author and not all readers are thinkers.
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on 10 August 2014
I hadn't realised this was short stories and that's the only reason I have only given this book four stars. I was expecting another wonderful novel from this author. Beautifully written, quite scary in that it plays on what we al beive.. it wont happen to us, but of course awful things do happen to ordinary people. excellent read
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on 31 December 2013
Cover 3.0 Having dipped into Jon's first book and been amazed at the way he writes I have continued with this book doing the same. I enjoy writing short stories - maybe at times in a similar style - snapshots of life with some fantasy. I have just started to write a short story introduction in the second person after reading that very little fiction is written in the second person. Then I come across such a story in this book ... I think. It is not a book I will enthuse over as an enjoyable read but I will do so as an unusual read particularly because I am trying to do the same in my own writing. The punch lines in many of the stories are those one thinks about as happening in secret. Jon seems to be a patient watcher of the human race. I am as well based on TAD 292 thinking but without the same talent! Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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on 13 January 2014
I greatly enjoyed his three novels, which were the work of a creative and skilled writer. But what on earth is he doing with these short stories? A couple of them come to a conclusion. In others, there was an actual storyline, but no resolution - they just stopped, leaving one confused and rather irritated. There is often an atmosphere of actual or impending disaster, but it is never made clear exactly why or what is going on. Two stories are so brief as to have no point, and the last is a long list of towns and villages. To quote Ricky Gervais - "He's having a laugh!" - but I'm afraid that I'm not amused. Rather a waste of time and money.
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