Short Stories Challenge – We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published January 4, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s We Were Just Driving Around all about?:

This story focuses on a group of lively teenagers in a car, being young, enjoying themselves and talking about their hopes and dreams.

What did I think?:

Oh my goodness, I have so many things I want to say about this story I’m a bit worried I’m going to get over-excited and forget about them all. I’ve praised Jon McGregor to the skies before after reading his previous short stories in this collection but this one really knocked my socks off. All the stories in this book are based in the Lincolnshire fenlands, England (fenlands = naturally marshy region, thanks Wikipedia!). Each story also bears a subtitle for the local village/town where the story is set and in We Were Just Driving Around, the setting is North Ormsby.

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Our narrator is one of four teenagers in a car enjoying a speedy drive around the countryside with his friends Josh, Tom and Amanda. The music is blaring, to the extent that our narrator notices that things appear very picturesque outside comparing it to when you’ve got your headphones in while walking down the street and things appear to be happening around you as if you were in a film. This took me a couple of re-reads to understand until I pictured myself whilst wearing headphones and it’s absolutely true – he has a wonderful way of putting certain feelings into words!

Josh is being particularly vocal in the car as he regales his friends with his hopes for the future. He has had a brilliant (according to him) idea of developing a gourmet snack business. This involves anything you could possibly think of eating when you’re not in the mood for something big made for you to go within minutes. As his friends laugh and gently tease him he is determined that his idea is genius and he will be a millionaire. However, as with all the other stories I have read so far in this collection there is a slight edge to this happy-go-lucky narrative. There is the sky turning a “shadowy blue,” the tyres of the car seeming to leave the road at one point and indeed the extreme happiness of all the teenagers in the car (is anyone ever that happy?!). Then before you know it, the author pulls the rug out from under us with a complete killer of a final sentence. Damn you Jon McGregor, I was feeling very comfortable there!

This is a fantastic story that I really need everyone to go out and read immediately. The author seems to choose every sentence, every word even with military precision and thought and although this story is a mere three pages long it grabs your attention and makes you feel so much for characters you’ve barely had a chance to get to know. Due to the story ending on an almighty cliffhanger, a lot is left up to the readers imagination which some people may find a bit frustrating but I believe works so very well when written by an author of this calibre. It reminded me of my own teenage years and the wave of extreme emotions both high and low that often accompany this time. There is no better feeling sometimes than being with a close group of friends doing something exciting and having the time of your lives and I think Jon McGregor does a genius job of portraying this. He is a talented and phenomenal writer that I feel compelled to shout about from the roof tops just so other people can have the same experience that I’ve just had.

If I haven’t convinced you to read the story yet (and at only three tiny pages you really should!) why not listen to it on the Bloomsbury website HERE?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point.

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9 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

  • Just listened to the story – thanks for the link. What a brilliant narration he does of it! I’m guessing he must do a lot of reading aloud while he’s writing, ‘cos it really sounded natural – just the way someone would tell a story in speech.

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