I read this book almost in one sitting. It is that good.

Which isn’t surprising, as I have read and loved all of Jon McGregor’s books to date.

The title of the book is intriguing (and long, so it will be henceforth abbreviated to ‘This isn’t the sort of thing…’), and I am not sure I fully understand what it means or intends. Except that, perhaps perversely and ironically, what the book contains might just be the very sort of thing that actually does, or might, happen to me, or to you…

A collection of short stories that are in many ways connected, some very obviously so, ‘This isn’t the sort of thing…’ is quite an enigmatic and elusive book, yet also seductive, all of which are perhaps not unrelated.

The collection opens with the story That Colour, which launches the book both physically and thematically with the following sentence:

‘She stood by the window and said, Those trees are turning that beautiful colour again.’

The story ends ‘I said, But tell me again.’

This entrance establishes what was for me a recurring theme throughout the stories, the potentially destructive force of both the said and the unsaid.

We see it again in In Winter the Sky, where the unsaid reaches a critical urgency:

‘He had something to tell her.’

Sometimes, the telling only makes everything worse, which we witness in The Chicken And The Egg, where the protagonist works up to eventually sharing his secret phobia with his wife. When he finally unburdens, the sharing backfires, and he finds no safety or relief from the telling:

‘He hasn’t actually discussed it with anyone else since then, to be fair. He’s not at all sure it would help.’

Unsurprisingly, other stories weave a thread of deliberate silence. Close opens pointedly with the sentence:

‘She wouldn’t tell Patricia.’

There is also that which should never be said, as we see in Thoughtful:

‘She threw her pint glass across the garden and told him to just shut up.’

Avoiding and obstructing what someone else needs to say is the central theme of Vessel, where the tulips-bearing friend is ushered out the door before he can ‘say’ anything.

There is a profound sense throughout the collection that words can be dangerous and ultimately destructive. The need to share, to tell another, creates an urgency, which culminates in either silence or a saying aloud, neither act dissipating the fear they have arisen from. A sobering indictment on the possibilities of sharing and of trust.

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