Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor

Published: 2021 Genre: Contemporary fiction. 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Harper Collins 3. Storm [Public Domain] Image by Simon from Pixabay 4. Bearded man [Public Domain] via Max Pixel

Robert Wright is a technical assistant on a research station in Antarctica when a disastrous incident happens during a sudden storm, leaving him separated from his two colleagues. When he returns home to his wife Anna, he is unable to communicate and she has to help him recover and find a new way of living.

Remember the training: find shelter or make shelter, remain in place, establish contact with other members of the party, keep moving, keep calm.

Glanceabook: The beginning of the story grabs the reader’s attention, with the immediate tension of the snowstorm. It is not conventionally told with third-person descriptors to aid visualisation, but it is told using the short, staccato words and phrases of the character’s thoughts and feelings, thus adding to the realism. The story then changes to an account of the recovery, this time delving more into Anna’s thoughts and feelings, giving a realistic portrayal of the frustrations of being a carer.

  • The Guardian: “it’s a novel of complex feeling and beautiful restraint from one of the finest writers around.”
  • The Scotsman: “The first two parts of the novel are so good, and display such a range of imagination and sympathetic understanding, that one can easily forgive the banality of the last part and recognise that McGregor is a novelist of rare quality and accomplishment. He also leaves one wondering which is more terrible: to be caught in an Antarctic storm or deprived of the ability to speak.”


“Falling. Weight. Silence. White. Mouth full. Snow pack tight. Wait. Up. Down. Floating. Low thing. Snow sling. Heart beat slow snow low light gone. Footsteps little far. Footsteps big near. Shout. Pull. Fight. Shout. Pull over, turn over. Breath. Big breath. Mouth open, cold air. Lungs burst. Breath, breath, breath. Stand Lean. Fall.

I’ve got a lot of work to do. They’re going to have me filling out carer assessment forms. I don’t want to be a carer; I never even really wanted to be a wife.

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