Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 11, 2021

Lean Fall Stand (2021), by Jon McGregor

Jon McGregor is one of the most empathetic, observant authors writing today.  In Even the Dogs he showed us what it’s like to be invisible in Britain’s underclass, and in Reservoir 13, he showed us how at first the media is all over tragedy—intrusively so—and then how as time goes by and the mystery of a missing child is never solved, the journalists move on and even local people forget.  Now in Lean Fall Stand we see how the invisible army of carers lose everything they value when disability strikes someone for whom they are responsible.

That was the draft I had started before I broke my wrist. What follows is my first try at using voice recognition.

John Lear four extent I John MacGregor this was a terrific book

MacGregor he’s he is M in pathetic empathetic or for all for or fax that overrides thoughtful box



When an Antarctic research expeditions I was wrong consequences are far reaching for the men involved and for their families back home

Robert docx right of Être of Antarctic fieldwork holds the clue is to what happened but he is no longer able to communicate that.

While and that his wife against the sharp contrast of her new life as a carer.  Robert is forced to learn a whole other way of being in the world.

I warning winning novelist John MacGregor returns whether stunning novel mesmerising a entertain daily art explanation of heroism and explores the indomitable human impulse to tell our stories in when words fail us an invitation online between sacrifice and selfishness this is a story of the undervalued at recognised a range it can take dusty get through the day.

This was an attempt to use voice recognition in a word document.  If you want to see the blurb that I was reading aloud to train the computer, you can read it at Goodreads.

So, you get the idea…

But I do want to tell you about this book.  I’ve already read two books since and started a third, and I need to jot down my thoughts while they’re fresh in my mind.  What follows was typed left-handed…

The novel is written in three parts.  The first part is a thrilling disquieting narrative about three men in Antarctica.  Robert ‘Doc’ Wright is an old hand.  He has been going to Antarctica for many years.  He is experienced, capable and pragmatic, but he is a bit resistant to change such as the new-fangled Satphones.  He cuts corners sometimes.

When first-timer Thomas separates from the group so that Luke can take a better photo, Robert allows it.  When a sudden storm blows in, disaster strikes.  In the ensuing drama Robert’s narrative becomes very confused.  Is it hypothermia, or something else?

Luke, in a panic, tries to organise rescue but everything goes horribly wrong.

Part Two is told from the perspective of Robert’s wife.  Anna is used to long periods alone.  She brought up their two children herself, because Robert was only home rarely.  It’s not a great marriage but it persists through inertia.  This gave her space to follow her own scientific career but she has to drop everything to go to Robert’s side when he is medically evacuated to Santiago…

What follows is a nightmare.  The assumption is that she will become his carer.

Her adult children drop by but the enormous responsibility falls to her, and the way in which this takes over every waking hour is brought alive by pages and pages of sentences beginning with ‘She had to’ …. followed by one task after another, some of them unpleasant and all of them an affront to his dignity and hers.  It reminded me of the enormous responsibility of new parenthood: the 24/7 demands and the exhaustion.  The difference with a new baby is that it’s a responsibility that comes with joy and that as the weeks go by, the baby becomes more and more independent.  Life opens up as a unit of two becomes a family.  For Anna this new life shuts her in.

Part Three traces Robert’s journey towards communication.  Budget cuts limit access to speech therapy, and he ends up in a group of people who for various reasons can’t communicate.  Robert’s struggle to tell the story of what happened in Antarctica makes a hero of him after all, but ultimately Anna is the hero of this novel.

Highly recommended.

Author: Jon McGregor
Title: Lean Fall Stand
Publisher: 4th Estate (Harper Collins) 2021
ISBN: 9780008204914, pbk., 282 pages
Source: Kingston Library



  1. I was thinking about you today as I went for my daily walk Lisa. A decade ago when I broke my toe, I was amazed at how much the little bone in a middle toe could ache. And how much it limited my movement. I could still walk to work, but it took me twice as long, and I paid for it each night with an ache that seemed impossible compared to the size of the toe!
    And here you are, still reading copious amounts and mastering the art of left hand typing. Indefatigable is the word that springs to mind!


    • The irony is that this book is, like all of this author’s books that I’ve read, about communication. The character endures a lot in order to find alternative ways of telling his story.
      All things are relative. All I’m doing is using the other hand… the hardest part is moving the mouse when it’s on the wrong side of the keyboard, and I keep forgetting to turn caps lock off and then I have to delete all the shouting and start again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As we’ve discussed I don’t think your voice recognition software is as good as mine, unfortunately. I wonder if the one on your phone is a different or better one?

    Anyhow, this sounds like an interesting book. I’ve only read a few about carers/caring – Helen Garner’s The spare room, and Rodney Hall’s The stolen season – and they have confirmed what a demanding and heroic action it is.


    • Ah yes, I meant to reference A Stolen Season, that was a very powerful book.
      It makes you think of all the people who do this work day in day out for years….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brava! Someone else recommended this book me.


    • It was recommended to me too, but I ran out of oomph to look up who it was and my LH mouse skills aren’t good enough to copy/paste/link yet. I’ll come back to this post and fix it when I can because I like to acknowledge the bloggers who help me find the books I’ve enjoyed.


  4. You are amazing Lisa in your capacity to commit to literature. I hope the pain is diminishing a little. That you are reading about disability and the expectation on carers is a theme that is played out in every day life and more common than we seem to recognise. Oh and I I picked up The Reservoir yesterday at the library as have been meaning to read J. McGregor for some time.


    • Indeed.
      When you think about people who get OAs and other awards, maybe there should be a special medal for them all not to mention more than adequate carer’s allowances and respite services.


  5. Oh dear, that voice recognition software is more than a bit glitchy. It’s so impressive all you managed with one non-dominant hand! I adore Jon McGregor, he’s one of my favourite contemporary writers. I’ve not read this yet but I saw him speak about (online) and I’m really looking forward to it, so it’s great to hear how much you rated it.


    • I hadn’t realised that he’s written more than the three I’ve read. I’m going to chase up more of them when I get time. I really like his focussed on voices we rarely hear.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah Lisa, I suspect you are not very good at ‘resting up’, in fact I know you are not. I had a bit of a giggle over the voice recognition. But I do want to say, you DO deserve a break and dealing with a broken wrist is the perfect time to take it. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL Karenlee, I’ve halved the number of words I usually write!
      (And I’ve spent nearly the whole day reading on the sofa.)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, the voice recognition gave me a good laugh, and I am impressed by your dedication to continue typing left-handed. Thanks for this review Lisa, as a carer myself, I would be very interested to read this one. Being a carer is a tough job, even when it is for someone you love and there are plenty of us who have been doing it year in and year out, going without, watching life pass us by, with very little recognition. Now we spend our time battling the NDIS. So, great to see a book that spotlights the impact on carers. Hope your right hand will soon be back in action.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was so pleased to see today that there’s been a big win against the so-called reforms to the NDIS. Yes, it’s very costly, but if that’s what it costs then Australia is rich enough to pay for it and should have done so years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, we were relieved to see the independent assessments hit on the head. The process is stressful enough as it is and has been revealed to be nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise. I think a large part of the cost comes from the unpaid care, previously done by families, that is now being taken up service providers, and secondly, from many people with disabilities who have been deprived of therapy & intervention which could have assisted them to become more independent and thus need a higher level of care. It just shows the great difference between the everyday life that everybody else takes for granted and the miserable support that people with disabilities endured for far too long.


        • Yes. That’s right. We need to protect the NDIS and make it even better

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done Lisa – I have voice recognition on my tablet and my phone, but they often come up with gibberish, so I salute you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I still think about Reservoir 13 from time to time, and I have the feeling this will be the same kind of book, that lingers… thanks for taking the time to get this down!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, a truly haunting book. Like The Story of Lucy Gault in that respect.


  10. I’m amazed and impressed with what you’ve been able to do with just your left hand, given the VR software clearly needs to up its game. I heard a few episodes of this novel on BBC Radio 4’s ‘book of the week’ abridgement recently: sounds a bit dark, but good. I still have Reservoir 13 on the pile to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The results of your voice recognition experiment brought back memories of my own attempts at using this years ago. I was practically shouting the words and still the **** system kept saying it didn’t recognise the words or couldn’t hear me (the microphone was almost in my mouth).

    I’m reading this book at the moment. Only on the Lean section but was so engrossed in this today I was disappointed when my husband emerged from his clinic appointment much earlier than I expected :)


    • LOL It sounds like you were doing what The Spouse a.k.a. The Chauffeur was doing all day yesterday, sitting in the car waiting for my appointments to finish,
      I think it’s just been listed for the Booker. I’m not surprised…


      • Astoundingly it didn’t even get long listed !


        • Oh…
          And Light Perpetual did? There’s no accounting for judges’ tastes!


          • I think they need to ditch the “expert” judges and put book bloggers on the panel.


            • That would be fun:)


              • It would indeed, though hard work to read all those books (100 plus submissions every year)


  12. I tend to use voice recognition for dictating quotes in blog posts. It saves a bit of time, and the success rate is pretty good – though I always have to go back and correct something manually…

    I’m sorry that the Booker overlooked Lean Fall Stand, but I expect to see it on the Goldsmiths.

    I hope you’re feeling a bit better now!


    • Hi David, great to hear from you:)
      That’s a great idea to use VR for quotations… I’ve got more movement in my fingers now so I can do more, but have to be careful not to overdo it.
      Patience, alas, is not my strong suit!


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