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Lean Fall Stand: A Novel af Jon McGregor

Lean Fall Stand: A Novel (udgave 2021)

af Jon McGregor (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
7810277,958 (4.07)7
Titel:Lean Fall Stand: A Novel
Forfattere:Jon McGregor (Forfatter)
Info:Catapult (2021), 288 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

Work Information

Lean Fall Stand af Jon McGregor


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A dramatic opening set amidst a sudden blizzard near a remote station in Antarctica results in catastrophic loss. Some of these losses are definite. The dead require retrieval and mourning. But the loss that Robert suffers is altogether more difficult to put into words, and not just for him. Coincident with the storm Robert suffers a stroke. His power of speech is taken from him as well as much of his mobility and vitality. From utterly immobile patient unable to communicate, we witness Robert’s excruciatingly slow and painful partial recovery.

This story, however, is not just Robert’s. It also belongs to his wife, Anna, who is obligated to set aside her career as a professor of climate science in order to nurse her husband back to some semblance of normalcy. Anna is not especially communicative herself. And this lack of communication iterates in other forms across the novel as various modes and means of story telling — inquest, narrative, drama, report, etc. — fail to convey what Robert has experienced. Perhaps only the dance or motion therapy that Robert is asked to engage in offers a fresh approach to, if not communicate, at least create new meaning.

Jon McGregor’s writing is masterful, as always. His opening set-piece has the pacing of a thriller. But it is his sensitive portrayal of aphasia, and especially the reality that aphasia can be very different for each sufferer, that makes the novel especially poignant. But it is equally worth reading just because of Anna. She is a wonderful character.

Highly recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Nov 23, 2021 |
The first section of the book (entitled “Lean”) begins in Antarctica where Robert (Doc) Wright is serving as general technical assistant to two young researchers. An expedition to take photos ends in tragedy. The second section (entitled “Fall”) focuses on Anna, Robert’s wife, who becomes his primary caregiver as he struggles to recover from a stroke. The final section (entitled “Stand”) centres on an aphasia support group where people are encouraged to explore different methods of communication in order to tell their stories.

Though the three parts might seem to belong to three different genres, they can all be called survival stories connected by the theme of communication. In the Antarctica chapter, there is a lot of miscommunication and broken communication because the men hear only snatches of each other’s voices on their radios. Then Robert’s ability to talk is compromised. In “Fall” Robert is unable to communicate easily, and Anna is given incomplete information about Robert’s condition and treatment. In “Stand” we encounter people who are experiencing different types of aphasia and learning other ways of expressing themselves, including non-verbal communication.

Isolation is also an important element in the three sections. By virtue of their remote location, the Antarctica team is isolated from the outside world, and events cause the three of them to become physically isolated from each other. Anna and Robert, accustomed to living apart, are brought together but remain emotionally isolated and struggle to connect. Everyone in the support group feels isolated because of difficulties communicating with others.

Readers will probably like different sections of the novel for various reasons, but I found something to admire in all parts. “Lean” is an adventure story with lots of action and suspense. It ends with Robert’s stream-of-consciousness which so realistically reflects his fragmented and confused thinking. What is outstanding in “Fall” is not just Robert’s struggle to adapt to his circumstances but also the impact his situation has on others, especially Anna. “Stand” for me was the weakest, but it depicts various types of aphasia and offers hope in showing people adapting to a new way of functioning in the world.

I enjoyed the characterization of Robert and Anna. Robert is a 30-year veteran of expeditions to Antarctica. He enjoys the “pure cold blessing of silence” to be found on the southernmost continent, though he spends evenings entertaining the men with “detailed stories about his early seasons at Station K.” And when he’s home, he talks so much that Anna one time tells him, “Shut the shit up!” This is the man who finds himself in a position where he has lost the ability to tell his stories and “always had to reach for the words. As though they’d been put on a high shelf in the stores. Out of reach. Or left outside, snowed under, needing to be dug out.” The traits he needed to survive in the challenging conditions of Antarctica, he has to apply to the challenges of his new life. In the opening, he serves to provide perspective to a photo, his size illuminating the scope of Antarctica’s vastness. In the end, he serves to provide a focus on both the enormity of recovery and the immense possibilities.

Like Robert, Anna also enjoys silence; she likes time alone in her garden and attends meetings of the Society of Friends which are held in silence. Then she is faced with caring for a man who struggles to speak. Her life is totally upended when Robert comes home. She is independent and self-sufficient and has become accustomed to living apart from her husband as he spent months of each of the last 30 years in Antarctica. She is a climate change scientist, but her career has to be put on hold so she can care for her husband. She admits to a friend that, “’I don’t know if I want him to come home’” and “’I don’t want to be a carer; I never really wanted to be a wife.’” We see her exhaustion as she helps Robert’s rehabilitation, with little help from social services or their self-absorbed children. She experiences a gamut of emotions: resentment, anger, and frustration.

There is much to unravel in a McGregor novel; his style is sparse, but every word is significant. If unconventional, thought-provoking literary fiction is what you enjoy, this book should be on your to-be-read pile.

Note: I received a digital galley from the publisher via NetGalley.

Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Sep 20, 2021 |
This was a book I didn't know much about before starting it (it was a gift and I find the book blurbs can often be spoilers), and it surprised me as from part 1 I thought it was going to be an atmospheric thriller but parts 2 and 3 went in a very different direction.

Lean, Fall, Stand in the title is the name of the three parts of the book. In Lean an Antarctic research trip goes badly wrong, Fall tells the immediate aftermath of a stroke for both the survivor and his wife and Stand is about recovery and the impact the stroke has on both of their lives in different ways.

It's a well told tale that keeps enough suspense about the truth of the tragedy in Antarctic whilst transitioning from an action and adventure novel to a human life story and honest portrait of a marriage of two hugely independent people navigating their way through cataclysmic change.

I wasn't sure where this novel was ultimately going, and enjoyed McGregor taking me on a bit of a ride through the dark in the story.

4 stars - a great page-turner. One that I'd recommend if you've hit a reading slump and just need a 'damn good read' type of book to get you out of it. ( )
  AlisonY | Sep 20, 2021 |
Lean Fall Stand by Jon Mcgregor is a highly recommended novel of an unforeseen accident and the struggle of recovery.

Robert 'Doc' Wright is a 33-year veteran technician at Station K in the Antarctic who arrives there with two postdocs geographic researchers, Thomas and Luke. When Thomas wants to take some pictures they make the disastrous choice to bend the rules, heading out without sat-phones and separate. When a blinding storm quickly rolls in, they are struggling to contact each other. It is at this point that Robert/Doc has a stroke and is unable to walk or communicate. Anna, Robert's wife flies from England down to Chile where he has been hospitalized. Robert, who cannot communicate, is unable to tell anyone what happened. Anna, who is an academic researcher studying climate change, has to set her work aside to become a caregiver.

The narrative is told in three parts: Lean, Fall, and Stand. Lean is the beginning of the novel, at the research station and the accident. Fall and Stand switch to Anna's new overwhelming and thankless role as caregiver to her husband who cannot convey his thoughts or needs. His basic care and therapy takes over Anna's life. Rather than the struggle for survival in the harsh Antarctic, the fight is for survival after a stroke and for caring for a stroke survivor. It is a sad tale that moves incrementally and slowly toward hope.

The choice on presenting some of the story through a stream-of consciousness style captures both Roberts broken language struggles due to the aphasia and Anna's endless tasks required to care for him. There is a lack of strong character development that held back some of the connection that might have otherwise been present for the characters. If you have ever known anyone recovering after a stroke, it might help you engage more completely with the characters.

This is a subdued, delicate novel that portrays the struggles of care and recovery with the same focus as surviving any battle. While I appreciated much of the novel, The lack of real connection with the characters and the repetition of Robert's struggles with his speech held me back a little.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Catapult.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4241317508 ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Sep 16, 2021 |
McGregor’s take on this novel resembles one he has used before. The reader begins with what appears to be genre fiction, but eventually finds himself following a community engaged in more quotidian pursuits. His goal and, indeed, his gift, is the portrayal of messy everyday human and natural landscapes. In this instance, high adventure in Antarctica morphs into an examination of what it is like to be and to care for a stroke victim.

Here, his intention is to capture the nuances of communication. He does this remarkably well by exploring instances when words fail. Robert “Doc” Wright, a skilled Antarctica hand, suffers a stroke while conducting field work with two young scientists during a harrowing storm where modes of communication breakdown. Doc’s stroke results in aphasia. With that as his launching pad, McGregor takes a deep dive into what it takes to survive the loss of speech. The heroes are no longer Antarctic explorers, but instead become caregivers and therapists. His subtle theme becomes how communication is more nuanced than just recalling words and ordering them to make sense. In the face of aphasia, the afflicted are urged to employ alternative means to communicate their ideas.

The detachment, threat and inaccessibility of Antarctica — “that cold pure blessing of silence” — serves as an apt counterpoint to what happens back in Cambridge. As the consummate capable loner, Doc Wright finds himself totally dependent on his wife. Anna, a successful research oceanographer, is a person who cherishes her career and the time on her own Doc’s extended assignments in Antarctica provide. She never wanted to be one of those women who accepted a lesser career in support of her family. “I don’t want to be a carer,” she says at one point. “I never even really wanted to be a wife.” Her grit, frankness and determination easily make her the most interesting character in the novel.

McGregor telegraphs his plot structure with his title. The “lean” is the freak storm, the separation of the three men, and Thomas’ eventual loss on a drifting ice floe. Doc’s stroke and aphasia culminate in his loss of the finnicky control he so cherishes. The “fall” comes when Doc returns to the UK. His only useful expressions become “Yes, yes, well obviously of course” “Christ!” and “yes”. He is unable to utter the word “no”. He is now a defeated man, totally dependent on Anna. The “stand” represents Doc’s tentative steps toward rehabilitation. This centers on alternative modes of expression (i.e., movement) over language. Doc’s adventures in Antarctica serve to give him a status in his group he never had while isolated in Antarctica.

McGregor skillfully uses close first-person narration to capture how various lives can turn the everyday into something new and unusual. He succeeds in depicting a frustrating clinical disorder with empathy and humor. His characterizations wonderfully portray the ultimate tragedy of a condition that gives the mistaken impression of mental impairment. Some members of Doc’s group struggle to find the right word, while others fluidly string together words without meaning. Most have access to just a few words (sometimes just curses, followed by apologies). Not unlike his other work, McGregor leaves a lot unsettled in this novel, but he admirably redeems it with crisp depictions of how a community of reflections can meld into an astonishing picture of real life in all its messy glory. ( )
  ozzer | Aug 26, 2021 |
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