Short Story Review: ‘She Was Looking For This Coat’ by Jon McGregor

Story Title: She Was Looking For This Coat
Collection/Anthology?: This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You (Bloomsbury)
Date Read: 8th February 2012
Briefly: A daughter visits a bus company’s offices, in desperate search of her father’s lost coat.
Afterthoughts: Another tale of extreme brevity from Jon McGregor, set in the nondescript surroundings of a bus company’s lost property office (one assumes).

In true Chekhovian style not a lot happens in this story, yet it remains beautifully engaging. And that engagement comes from wondering why a daughter is showing so much reverence for her father’s lost coat. There appears to be nothing all that special about the coat, and yet there’s an underlying reason why the daughter is so desperate to retrieve it.

And in true Chekhovian style, McGregor once again offers little in the way of an answer. He prefers to leave this one open; to let the puzzle linger in the mind of the reader. Has the father left something of value in a pocket? Has he suddenly left his daughter, leaving the jacket as an only memory of him? Does the coat hold special sentimental value to him, her or both of them (she can certainly describe it in minute enough detail)? There could be a million reasons why the daughter is so desperate to recover the coat, and this story leaves the reader thinking about every one of them.

EDIT: But does McGregor really leave the ending to this one open? He’s been in touch (a pleasant surprise) to let me know that there’s one sentence – one word in fact – that carries the weight of the entire story. It’s so cleverly subtle, and yet so glaringly obvious. If you read the story, see if you can spot what I didn’t. It’s genius! P.S. I still like the idea of an open Chekhovian ending though :).

Rating: ★★★½☆

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).