What’s She Was Looking For This Coat all about?:
Set in the flat and threatened fenland landscape, where the sky is dominant and the sea lurks just beyond the horizon, these delicate, dangerous, and sometimes deeply funny stories tell of things buried and unearthed, of familiar places made strange, and of lives where much is hidden, much is at risk, and tender moments are hard-won.
She Was Looking For This Coat is about a daughter who visits a bus company’s lost property office to retrieve a coat her father had mistakenly left behind.
What did I think?:
This is the third story in Jon McGregor’s short story collection and is incredibly brief in similarity to the first story That Colour which I have reviewed separately. However, the author manages to cram so much meaning into just a few pages which makes the reader immediately want to go back and read it again to re-evaluate its message, which is certainly what I did. It is set as with all the stories in this collection in Lincolnshire and involves a daughter who is trying to locate a coat of her father’s that she thought had been left on the bus. One of the many interesting things about the exchange between the daughter and the member of staff in the office is how minutely she goes into detail about the coat i.e. the colour or mixtures of colours, the buttons, the lining, the fact that it was torn from one of the arms to the hem, even to the pens she thought were present in the pocket. It is obvious to us that the daughter seems quite desperate to locate the coat not only from the way she tries to look behind the member of staff to see if he is “hiding anything,” to the way she is speaking:
“The way she was talking, I felt like asking her if she needed to sit down.”
Our narrator (the member of staff) is eager to help if at all possible and tries to narrow down when exactly the coat could have been mislaid. I also got the impression that our narrator was slightly charmed by the woman in his office – he wonders why all of a sudden another customer appears (when he never normally has customers!) and then notices a queue has formed as he tries his best to help her. As she fills out the required form, he notices how she spells her name, that it suits her and the colour of her hair. Instant attraction alert? By the end of the story it felt like he obviously did not want their interaction to end as even though he now had a line of other people to attend to as his final question to her and the last line of the story is:
“I asked her was there anything else I could help her with today.”
This all might be my own deductions but I really feel that the author was exploring his narrators attraction to this woman, although perhaps we’ll never know what would have happened between them because of the abruptness of the ending. I’m not normally a fan of endings that leave me hanging but for some reason I really enjoyed analysing and re-evaluating this beautiful and very effective short story. The use of small, snappy little sentences were very clever and made it feel like you were observing an intimate exchange rather than just a woman looking for her father’s coat. And why did she need to find it so badly? My head whirs with the possibilities and imaginings!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Ganymede by Daphne Du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point