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on 4 February 2003
On the whole, I have to confess my annoyance at the short story; I find it amazingly difficult to immerse myself in the plot, where you know 20 pages later, you'll be met with a happily rounded- off story and little to mull over. So thank God for Open Secrets! In this, Alice Munro twists and pulls the short story genre until it is as unrecognisable as it is unpredictable- so very rereshing!
In Open Secrets the stories do not revolve around plot, allowing the reader to become connected through location, character relations and intrigue rather than linear events. For example, the title story centres on the small- town gossip of a local girl's murder, and while we don't ever find out the truth of events, a woman's intuition and the insight we get into small community life tells us more than we can articulate. For it is this that makes Munro's collection so marvellous- the fact that we can read a story and arrive at a feeling, rather than a conclusion, articulating not the truth, but feminine ideology and selfhood.
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on 12 April 2014
I read a great deal. I try to find authors I think I will respect and very often I'm bitterly disappointed therefore it was a pleasure to open another collection of stories by Alice Monroe. A couple of these have popped up in other collections but that isn't a problem, I reread her constantly. I get the feeling these are earlier, they're a little more bizarre, there are more changes of scene and time than usual but they're equally satisfying. A great writer - enough said.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 October 2015
The characters that populate Alice Munro’s 1994 collection are confused and flawed, but very human. There are links between some of the eight stories in this book, in both their locations - in and around the towns of Carstairs and Walley in Alberta - and characters, many of whom are part of the Doud family. Whilst the stories do not interconnect they reinforce one another by these commonalities.

There is an element of ambiguity about the stories with the reader left to wonder what really happened. There are story elements that are set in Australia [‘The Jack Randa Hotel’] and Eastern Europe [‘The Albanian Virgin’]. The latter was the only story that did not wholly convince, partly because of the difficulty of bringing together the Albanian and Canadian locations, although the individual segments were fascinating to read.

In the title story Munro elegantly weaves numerous story strands – the disappearance of a young girl on a weekend trek, a married couple making an implicit accusation about a ‘morose and rather disgusting old urchin’ and a middle-aged woman bemused by husband's sexual rejuvination. Like the best short stories, all ends are not tied up which leaves the reader thinking about what one has read.

The opening tale, always so important in a collection of short stories, is ’Carried Away’ and it is also one of the best. It describes the life of Louisa, a librarian, over some 40 years and is revealed in a series of episodes that spiral into one another and indirectly reveal much, but not all, of the character’s depths – once again, Munro leaves the reader to fill in the gaps.

‘A Wilderness Station’ adopts a similar approach but here the scene is shifted to the mid 19th-century with much of the story being told by letters exchanged beween two church ministers. Munro’s inventiveness is paramount in revealing parts of a fractured story, jigsaw pieces for the reader to assemble. Characters, rural and urban locations and events are all described with the greatest economy but without losing any sense of authenticity. The past is very much connected with the present in these stories, both in the changes to the towns, their citizens and their main sites of employment, and in the experiences of the different generations. Whether past or present, the harshness of life is never far from the surface with the traumas of life very often being self-inflicted.

Whilst women are dominant throughout, in each story one sees the author’s understanding of the male character, too often hiding weaknesses and insecurities behind a superficial sense of firmness [sometimes violence] and order. The secrecy of the title is many and varied – some secrets are calculated, others unconscious, a few malicious.

The vocabulary is not at all literary and, repeatedly, reading created the effect of the author hearing the story read in the style of Garrison Keillor. Some stories, such as ‘Carried Away’ with its strange ending, made me go back to the beginning and re-read them to consider alternative explanations. This is an amazing storyteller at work, writing about people and places that are part of her life. Recommended, as are all the stories by this writer.
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on 6 November 2013
I read this book because I saw the author had won the Nobel Prize. I found it hard going at first,but this author does grow on one. My favourite is The Albanian Virgin. Munro favours rural types and however thorough the description they can be dull. Sometimes this had the feeling of a set book about which one would be expected to write essays. She sometimes describes people in too much detail. There is little humour and a lot of dour people. The Albanian Virgin is an exception, and is very clever and even great. I'm not sure whether to read more, but may do so.
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on 23 November 2013
Rather disappointed in the stories - sometimes found them dull and nearly always confusing. She does write well but .................. won't be picking up another book by her in a hurry.
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on 1 February 2009
Wondefful evocation of old rural Canada. Strong characters, some stories humdrum others real gems both written 'eloquently'
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on 7 February 2014
Lots of hype and I wanted to enjoy this book. I found it hard to read, at times confusing. Still, I got to the end!
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on 22 April 2014
So I don't have anything to add to this at this moment other than i'm looking forward to revisiting these stories.
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on 27 February 2014
The book was described as being in good condition, but actually the front cover was damaged and that area covered with a removable white label.This does not give a good impression at all.
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on 3 June 2016
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