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Short Stories Challenge – In Winter The Sky by Jon McGregor from the Collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

By Bibliobeth @bibliobeth1

This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You

What’s In Winter The Sky all about?:

The second story in McGregor’s collection focuses on a farmer who while driving late at night, accidentally kills someone and decides to bury the body.

What did I think?:

In Winter The Sky is about a farmer called George and his wife Joanna who is a poet. The story takes us back to when George was a teenager who helped out on his fathers farm and had never had a girlfriend before he met Joanna. They meet when she surprises him with a passionate kiss on a bus, and he makes plans to drive out in his fathers car to meet her that evening. After seeing her, George is a bit distracted to say the least when he drives home, accidentally hitting a man on the road and killing him. George is understandably terrified but he chooses to bury the body deep within the earth instead of reporting the incident. The first paragraph of the story is set when George and Joanna are married many years later, and George is finally admitting what he has done to his wife, as the guilt has been gnawing away at him and he feels he has to come clean. Also, the body has been discovered after flood water washed it out, although the deterioration of the corpse means that it is unidentifiable, luckily for George!

McGregor uses descriptive wordplay throughout this story to tell the reader about the land and more specifically the sky hence the title. What I loved most about the writing was the way the text was played with, for example some phrases were underlined which not only had the effect of making them stand out but when I tapped on them on my Kindle, it took me to a separate page with a small poetry stanza about the land, sky, or agriculture. Other words were in italics, some were even crossed out, which made the story quite unique and interesting. There were also a few stand-out moments which have stayed with me i.e. when George is remembering the accident, and notes that when he hits the unknown man, his arms flail up to the sky. The sky is also mentioned after George has buried the corpse when he looks up to it, and again when Joanna ominously notes that “the sky can see everything.” George also compares the man he kills to a stillborn calf which links in neatly with all the land and farming references, felt quite harrowing and sent a few shivers down my spine.

As for George as a character, to be honest I didn’t think much of him. He found ways of shifting his guilt about the accident onto his wife Joanna by declaring she was as much to blame as he was in that he wouldn’t have gone out if he hadn’t been meeting up with her. Their marriage seems to have taken a turn for their worst in recent times, almost feeling like a business relationship in managing a farm rather than two people in love managing a farm. George is also very unsupportive over Joanna’s work, pushing her poems to one side as if they are of little interest or relevance to him:

“So, for example, he might come crashing in from the barn late one afternoon, with his boots on, and say Would you just leave your bloody poems alone for one minute and help me get the seed-drill loaded up? There were five other places he could have put the bloody in that sentence, but he chose to put it there, next to ‘poems.’ This is an example, she would tell him, if he was interested, of what placement could do.”

I believe that if the author gets a reaction out of me regarding one of their characters, even if it is dislike, they have done their job properly and this is definitely the case with this story. At the end, the story returns full circle to the part where George is telling his wife his guilty little secret, and I think this corresponds quite nicely with the end of winter, and on a more sinister level with the body being unearthed revealing its secrets of the past. This is a really interesting and thought-provoking tale that I see more layers to every time I go a bit deeper, but I’m not going to risk this review turning into an essay, I’ll just let you find out its secrets yourselves!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


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