Drama and excitement are welcome in the novels of Jon McGregor, but they are expected to know their place. His Booker-longlisted debut novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002), featured a catastrophic event befalling the residents of a street in the north of England, but only at the end of the book; for the most part it was a hymn to ordinary life, a catalogue of unexceptional happenings in the day leading up to the disaster. His masterly Reservoir 13 (2017), which won the Costa Novel Award, did the same thing the other way around: it began with a tragedy – the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old girl on a family holiday in a Derbyshire village – and then focused on how life carried on in the village in the years following, with the mystery of the girl’s whereabouts being sooner or later relegated to the back of the mind for most of the residents as their everyday worries, joys and preoccupations returned to their customary place at the top of their list of priorities.
Lean Fall Stand, McGregor’s fifth novel, initially appears to offer something a bit different, beginning with the most sustained passage of action writing in his oeuvre. It’s almost Boy’s Own territory: three scientists, the crew of a research station in the Antarctic, have broken safety protocols to venture away from