Short Story Review: ‘In Winter The Sky’ by Jon McGregor

Story Title: In Winter The Sky
Collection/Anthology?: This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You (Bloomsbury)
Date Read: 3rd February 2012
Briefly: A young lad (George) gets involved in an unforgettable accident while returning home from a promising first date with his new girlfriend, Joanna.
Afterthoughts: McGregor demonstrates once again why he should be called the Heston Blumenthal of short fiction writing, with a story that’s unique, original and completely indescribable.

One could say that In Winter The Sky is two stories wrapped into one, but it isn’t. One could say that In Winter The Sky is one story told from two different perspectives, but it isn’t really that either. Perhaps the most accurate way to describe In Winter The Sky is to say that it’s a story told from two different perspectives, using two different literary forms with which to tell it; one form is a straightforward narrative, while the other is something of a mix between a poem and an explosion at a typesetter’s convention.

Regardless of my difficulties in describing what exactly In Winter The Sky is, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the story’s unique construction works. I might have struggled at first figuring out the best way to read the story (one perspective is told on the left hand page, and the other on the right), but after settling on the decision to read the narrative part first, followed by the poetic, I found that the former was complimented beautifully by the latter, with it bringing a real colour and vibrancy – along with subtle tension – to the story as a whole.

Of course, McGregor’s decision to add a separate poetic layer to his story isn’t a random one. Aside from it offering him the perfect vehicle on which to rather profoundly describe the sparse beauty of the fenland landscape in which the story (and indeed the collection) is set, the poetic perspective is intrinsic to the story itself, with the character who’s scribing it (Joanna) being something of an aspiring writer.

So, another winning story from McGregor, and one that will be remembered fondly for a long time to come. Odd, because much of the story is rather macabre.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This story was read as part of a review of the Jon McGregor short story collection, This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You. If you want to find out more about this collection then I invite you to pop along to my forethoughts post for this title, or to take a trip over to the publisher page for this book.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).