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Island: The Complete Stories by Alistair…
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Island: The Complete Stories

by Alistair MacLeod

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6182015,758 (4.31)58
  1. 10
    Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod (mao21234)
    mao21234: Aside from the obvious family connection? Precise and keenly observed stories. Mr. MacLeod is an apt hand with a simile- a rare talent, and one which made these stories all the more enjoyable.
  2. 00
    Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life by Jane Jacobs (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: MacLeod's stories illustrate, on a very human level, communities created by and suffering from the economic phenomena described by Jacobs.
  3. 00
    Sun's Net by George Mackay Brown (chrisharpe)
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» See also 58 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I have mixed feelings about this collection. It is a remarkably coherent body of work: even though these stories were written years apart and published in a variety of books and magazines, they all retain the classic MacLeod "flavour" and share a strong sense of place. The themes are similar as well: the struggle between retaining tradition and moving forward into the future, going away for work and worrying about the family you've left behind, reconciling your desires with the realities of your family's situation, and so on.

However, there were some elements of these stories I found difficult to grapple with. A couple feature animals being killed -- it is for farming purposes, rather than hunting or sport, but the description is graphic and may be a turn-off for some. Another turn-off is the preoccupation several stories in the collection have with sex, whether it be human sex or animal copulation. There were WAY too many members of the male anatomy, and their associated fluids and characteristics and activities, for my liking in these stories. I was especially put off by this preponderance of penises because I was reading the whole collection in just a few days, rather than reading one story at a time over a longer period.

If you like short stories or Canlit, you may find this interesting. It has vivid writing going for it, and the Gaelic songs lend beauty and grace to the stories in which they are quoted. It is a collection that is best read one story at a time over a longer period of time, during which you can think about the recurring themes. I would maybe also suggest reading No Great Mischief, MacLeod's novel, first, especially if you prefer long fiction over short stories. ( )
  rabbitprincess | May 20, 2017 |
absolutely wonderful. he loves cape breton, the land, the people, the language, and misses the old ways. ( )
  mahallett | Apr 13, 2017 |
Varying in quality but repetitious in content and atmosphere these stories portray the hardships of life as a miner or fisher on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. The better stories bring in some fictional drama instead of being mere biographical tales. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Magical, sorrowful, lyrical, short stories, some with a Scottish flavour. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
A good not great series of short stories. Really gets into life and culture of Cape Breton, the fishing and the mining and the changing dynamic of this region. The writing varies from great to flat, but still manages to convey the stories adequately. ( )
  charlie68 | Nov 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
There is something immensely reassuring about MacLeod's late-career success. Good writing, it seems, will out. Talent like his needs no hype. Nor need it deal with metropolitan or modishly high-concept themes. His narrative technique is deceptively simple. Judging by the texture of his prose and the sparseness of his output, he is a craftsman who patiently whittles and winnows until he has the perfectly shaped literary object.
 
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There are times even now, when I awake at four o'clock in the morning with the terrible fear that I have overslept; when I imagine that my father is waiting for me in the room below the darkened stairs or that the shorebound men are tossing pebbles against my window while blowing their hands and stomping their feet impatiently on the frozen steadfast earth.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375713042, Paperback)

"Once there was a family with a Highland name who lived beside the sea." So begins "As Birds Bring Forth the Sun," a 1985 entry from Island. The story continues, "And the man had a dog of which he was very fond." And there you have the basic elements of an Alistair MacLeod story: dog, family, and sea. The author--whose 2000 novel No Great Mischief won him a measure of long-overdue acclaim--shuffles these elements into a surprisingly infinite variety of configurations, always with the same precise, confident, quiet language.

His big theme is the abandonment of the rural. Though his characters live in the fishing communities of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the seaside isn't a place where they dwell contentedly. In half the stories, young men and boys feel a pull toward academe and the center of the country. In the other half, academically successful middle-aged men return to the wild eastern coast of Canada to try to reclaim the life they left behind. Both dilemmas are impossible to resolve--no one can be both a city mouse and a country mouse--and MacLeod wisely doesn't offer easy solutions.

What makes the writing sing, though, is the specificity of his descriptions of rural life. He tells you exactly how things work: "The sheep move in and out of their lean-to shelter, restlessly stamping their feet or huddling together in tightly packed groups. A conspiracy of wool against the cold." The people here are ultimately defined by the physical world, and MacLeod has a farmer's visceral feel for geography. As he writes in "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood": "Even farther out, somewhere beyond Cape Spear lies Dublin and the Irish coast; far away but still the nearest land, and closer now than is Toronto or Detroit, to say nothing of North America's more western cities; seeming almost hazily visible now in imagination's mist." This is regional fiction in the best sense: it belongs to one perfectly evoked place. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Sixteen stories set against the backdrop of Cape Breton Island explore family relationships, the importance of tradition, legend, the significance and beauty of the surrounding landscape, superstition, and memory.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393050351, 0393341186

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