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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars learning to read
Hard to believe this hasn't been reviewed here before. A set of linked short stories about quiet lives and ordinary enough people. It's the manner of telling which is astonishing: tiny material details (objects and scenes) interlaced with the most subtle movements of the characters' minds and feelings. If you've read William Trevor's stories, you'll know the kind of...
Published on 24 Sep 2007 by Paul Callick

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3.0 out of 5 stars Are these short stories or is it a novel?
Not quite what I had expected of short stories though each story could be read separately from the others. Not all the situations wholly credible.
Published 6 months ago by Ms Vivien R Freeman


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars learning to read, 24 Sep 2007
By 
Paul Callick (manchester) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Hard to believe this hasn't been reviewed here before. A set of linked short stories about quiet lives and ordinary enough people. It's the manner of telling which is astonishing: tiny material details (objects and scenes) interlaced with the most subtle movements of the characters' minds and feelings. If you've read William Trevor's stories, you'll know the kind of thing. It's more intricate than Trevor, though, more dense. And fuller than the pared-down style of Chekhov and Joyce, two of the great originals. The Beggar Maid is a slow, very still read, since each paragraph is subtly freighted, and you have to get so close in to the sentences, the effect is almost hallucinatory. When 'events' occur, they register in a shocking way. An amazing experience in reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzled again..., 3 Feb 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Alice Munro is an addiction. My wife might have put her finger on the essence of the matter: "You like her so much because her stories are like Leonard Cohen songs." Well, maybe. I leave it for the academic types to discern a fundamental Canadian thread linking the two for a PhD thesis. Fortunately, I am well beyond such possibilities or inclinations, and simply enjoy her beautifully expressed deep, deep insights into the human condition and relationships.

I recently read and reviewed her latest work Too Much Happiness, and felt it appropriate to read this collection, which is one of her earlier works, and which propelled her to deserved literary acclaim. The collection was written and published in the late `70's, and came out in Canada under the title of the last story "Who do you think you are?" while in the USA one of the middle stories was selected as the title: "The Beggar Maid." Unlike some other collections, all these stories are linked by the two principal characters: the step-mother, Flo, and the daughter, Rose. Each story is self-sufficient, and delivers a novel's worth of insights. A secular Decalogue.

Rose's mother dies early in the first story, of a blood clot on the lung. Her father soon thereafter marries Flo. They live "on the wrong side of the bridge" in a small village in Western Ontario. They run a small store from their home, and time and time again Munro provides the telling rich details of lower middle class life. In a much later story, "Simon's luck," Munro embeds what seems to be her own technique into the tale: "... those shifts of emphasis that throw the story line open to question, the disarrangements which demand new judgments and solutions, and throw the windows open on inappropriate unforgettable scenery." And so it is, in "Royal Beatings," where Flo manipulates the dad into giving the rebellious, just coming-of-age Rose a beating of the title's magnitude, yet Munro also provides a long leap to the future, when Rose is placing Flo into the nursing home.

"Privilege" concerned grade school, outhouses, boys who waited and lingered, and the girl she idolized, Cora. "Half a Grapefruit" is Rose's ingenious answer, hoping to shed her country origins. "Wild Swans" concerns her reaction to the groping hands of a preacher on a train. To single out one story as particularly brilliant seems to be a grave injustice to the others, but the book's title story is such, and relates her courtship, and eventual marriage by Patrick, while they are at college. Rose's strong ambivalence about marriage recalls some of the work of Anita Brookner. It is that crazy "I need you; I don't need you, and all of that jiving around" of Leonard Cohen. Consider Munro's description of the initial consummation: "Patrick was never a fraud; he managed, in spite of gigantic embarrassment, apologies; he passed through some amazed pantings and flounderings, to peace. Rose was no help, presenting instead of an honest passivity much twisting and fluttering eagerness, unpracticed counterfeit of passion."

So, a marriage of mismatches happens, and how often is that the normal course of events. And thus, can the inevitable "affair" be far behind. As Munro describes it: What was she in love with, then, what did she want of him? She wanted tricks, a glittering secret, tender celebrations of lust, a regular conflagration of adultery. All this after five minutes in the rain." Powell River proved to be the unlikely venue for the denouement to those five minutes.

A child, and a snow storm prove to be impediments to another affair, once Rose is divorced. And live comes full circle, when the child becomes the parent, and Munro brilliantly describes the aging process, and the necessity for Rose to put Flo in the nursing home.

Much still remains untouched. Rose is so realistically depicted... if I had only known then, what Munro describes now. What are they waiting for? She really does deserve the Nobel Prize. I can only contribute the most modest nudge, with 6-stars.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Are these short stories or is it a novel?, 17 Mar 2014
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Not quite what I had expected of short stories though each story could be read separately from the others. Not all the situations wholly credible.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak but empowering, 9 Mar 2014
This starts off very graphic and gritty, if not gross. Rose and Flo's lives are moderated by their extreme poverty and thus children endure the foulness of middens as part of school life, incestuous rape in the schoolyard ( which I found very disturbing), extreme beatings, under age sex , molestation and other anomalies as part of everyday life.
Initially, I found these details almost painful to endure and recounted as they are with dispassionate matter-of-factness.
The prudery of poverty does not allow the child to repeat any of this at home. Flo rules the household with a rod of iron, her proud harsh outlook moderated by a kindly, if capricious heart.
Rose's subsequent life, her cleverness and adaptability are always moderated by her harsh beginnings. She never feels quite in step with her peers from happier and less brutal roots. Even her love affairs and marriage are marred by the huge social gap between her and her partners. She manages to catch a pompous prig of an heir whose love for her is as ill-placed as an love affair can be. He ends up despising her almost as utterly as she despises him. Rose is a drifter, never fitting into any social situation easily, too ready to sense the pretentious and sniff out the bourgeois.This is Flo's legacy to her; the power to detach and destroy the pleasant kindnesses of femininity. For instance a pretty fey hostess's doting on her pet cat and kittens is vanquished by Rose's party tale of her newly dead tumble dried cat, guaranteed to make her look like a fish out of water, an anarchist at the dinner table.
Rose scuppers herself again and again with a furious self hatred and misguided pride. When we look at her past, we know why.
One thing I found rather hard to figure out was Rose's detachment and apparent abandonment of her daughter Anna. This seemed unlikely as her character is not as harsh as all that.
I needed some help understanding that hole in the narrative.
I found this book quite difficult to appreciate, it's as brilliant as usual, but extremely worrying and bleak.
People brought up in brutal and abject poverty are not always as cold and disinherited feeling as Rose is, once given the seeds for success. The saving grace is the humour in this book and the fact that all in all, it is very very interesting and well written.I am just not sure what to make of the heroine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars short stories by alice munro, 7 Jan 2014
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a series of stories about the interplay between a young woman and an old one and the difficulties in their relationship. well told as always by alice munro.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose, 11 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
I definitely did not like this book because it focuses on the vulgar side of life. I will not buy any more books authored by Alice Munro.
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The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose by Alice Munro (Paperback - 6 May 2004)
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