What’s If It Keeps On Raining all about?:
If It Keeps On Raining is the story of a troubled man who is preparing for a flood by building a tree-house and a raft.
What did I think?:
With every story I read in this beautiful collection by British author Jon McGregor, I become more and more certain that he’s one of the literary lights of modern times. His imagination, vision, storytelling and wordplay are exquisite and ever so clever and If It Keeps On Raining is another example of his writing genius. As with many of the other stories in this collection, the author tells us so much but with a lot of subtlety and gentle hints, so in fact, the reader is kind of guessing what he might be implying about a certain character or situation.
From the very beginning of this short story we are introduced to a man who appears to be quite troubled. He wants an unnamed someone in his life to know how he now begins his days. We guess that he is now divorced (the clues are all there but it’s never mentioned explicitly) as he is proud enough to announce that the house he lives in now belongs to him and him alone. How he begins his days though is quite strange, although consistent. Like clockwork, every morning he opens his door and empties his bladder onto the stony path from his front door leading down to the river. He finds a great amount of peace and satisfaction from this act – perhaps in a way, it’s a two-fingered salute to his ex in that he can do whatever he wants now? Including having a pee on his own pathway?!
As he urinates, his head is chock a block of many things that often go round and round his head in a circle. He looks at the river, the boats and the people on it and imagines disastrous scenarios that may occur if say, one man from a regular boat that goes past were to fall in the river and drown. He compares the river on several occasions to a surging crowd, perhaps one at a football match being crushed and pushed against a fence. It is also implied that our character may have been a police officer, possibly at a traumatic event such as Hillsborough which has caused him such mental anguish that he has had to quit his job and now fills his days with ruminating on the outside world and the terrible things that can happen.
He’s a source of amusement for the men at the yacht club, which he rarely goes to as they seem to find the fact that he is building a tree-house and a raft highly entertaining. He finds some comfort in the fact that at least when the flood that he knows is coming arrives, he will be prepared and they will be washed away by the high river water. Our main character is obviously a man with a darkness in his past but seems to be perfectly happy in his own company and preparing for the disaster he believes is inevitable.
This was a beautiful little story and one of the longer ones in the collection which I was pleased about as I think you needed a bit of length to get to grips with this man’s state of mind and his suffering. As I mentioned before, I loved how we weren’t given the evidence of what had happened to him in cold, hard facts – everything was just suggested and depends on the readers own imagination and interpretation to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Hey, I could be completely wrong but I really enjoyed making up my own mind about our character’s personality and tortured past! Wonderfully clever and definitely worth a read.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point