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New selected stories by Alice Munro
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New selected stories (2011)

by Alice Munro

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These are densely packed stories, demanding reflection time of the reader. The first one ‘The love of a good woman’ from the anthology of that name is quite lengthy and it takes a while to see how the title fits the tale. In fact, I was left thinking there was considerable irony in it, considering Enid’s final actions predicated in part as they were on her own erotic drams which she saw as patently evil, ‘filth in her mind’ filling her with ‘disgust and humiliation’. Is this why she risks her life at the end – as an atonement or punishment for what she feels is bad about her? When she asks Rupert’s children ‘if a person does something very bad, do you have to be punished?’, we feel at the time that she is thinking of what Mrs Quinn told her about her husband murdering Mr Willens but later I felt she could have been thinking of herself. And it seems odd that while this is going through her mind, she is also clearly seeing herself as a future wife to Rupert and step-mother to the children and even when she thinks he will have to turn himself in and go to prison for twenty years or so, she decides she’ll wait for him. All in all, then, the title of this story has a lot of uneasiness about it – and of course, Munro keeps the ending open – to make it linger in the reader’s mind, to suggest there really is no end?

There’s certainly a desolate tone established in the selection from Munro’s first anthology. Desolation oozes from every pore, seemingly casually included such as the ‘flyblown convenience store’ in ‘The Children Stay’, a story of a wife abandoning husband and her two little girls to run away with a bloke whom, we learn in the final line – in another seemingly passing reference – she doesn’t stay with for long. Bleak, domestic stuff – although there are some stories, like ‘The Bear came over the Mountain’ which have a wry twist at the end. I preferred the more subtle endings.

The stories selected from her earlier book ‘Runaway’ were among the most powerful to me, churning with the inexplicable and relentless vicissitudes of domestic life. Following Juliet through three stories has made me think that the next Munro I read will be this 2004 anthology.

So, these stories confirm for me how Munro has deserved all the accolades that she has attracted over the years. I think, though, that Proulx, covering a lot of the same ground but with some dark humour thrown in, just edges out Munro. ( )
  evening | Dec 8, 2014 |
Most of these stories I enjoyed and they aren't the happily ever after type. Easy to read and slowly draw you in ( )
  Cfraser | Mar 26, 2012 |
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The love of a good woman: For the last couple of decades, there has been a museum in Walley, dedicated to preserving photos and butter churns and horse harnesses and an old dentist's chair and a cumbersome apple peeler and such curiosities as the pretty little porcelain-and-glass insulators that were used on telegraph poles.
The children stay: Thirty years ago, a family was spending a holiday together on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
My mother's dream: During the night - or during the time she had been asleep - there had been a heavy fall of snow.
Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage: Years ago, before the trains stopped running on so many of the branch lines, a woman with a high, freckled forehead and a frizz of reddish hair came into the railway station and inquired about shipping furniture.
Family furnishings: Alfrida. My father called her Freddie.
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Spanning her last five collections and bringing together her finest work from the past fifteen years, this new selection of Alice Munro's stories infuses everyday lives with a wealth of nuance and insight. Written with emotion and empathy, beautifully observed and remarkably crafted, these stories are nothing short of perfection. This is a masterclass in the genre, from an author who deservedly lays claim to being one of the 'major fiction writers of our time'.… (more)

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