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4.3 out of 5 stars17
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 5 May 2001
Sorry, but I completely disagree with the previous reviewer. This was the best book I have read this year. If you like slice-of-life writing, if you are looking for a book that makes you think 'yes, I have felt exactly like that', if you are a fan of Raymond Carver, do read The Love of a Good Woman. It is wonderful.
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on 15 November 2013
I don’t know where to start with this book so I'm just going to dive in. Alice Munro is a very very good writer, the sort of talent who makes me think of Anne Rice's quip that Renoir sold his soul: it doesn't figure that a person can craft such luminously wonderful art without divine or diabolical help!

One of the things she does magnificently is write about children from their perspective in a way that is as delightful and frustrating and surprising as actually being with children. Once you've marvelled at this feat for a while you realise she is somehow doing the same thing with everyone, letting them speak and think and astonish and reveal, as if they live behind the scenes.

She is so gentle though, so respectful. She doesn't make that error that Katherine Mansfield stamped on in DH Lawrence of invading bodies and psyches as if we could ever understand others by magical omniscience rather than by empathy. The boys in the title story keep their fierce dignity, their sacred privacy. Even when Munro describes horrible traumatic episodes, she manages, with great sensitivity and care, to maintain a distance that keeps the reader safe from visceral response. You might want to call that shying away, but personally I'm kneeling in gratitude when an author can achieve this balance. I want to hear about trauma without being triggered where possible.

Loving Munro is also easy because her ethics of care and compassion for others are embodied by these stories, for example by Enid, the protagonist of the title story. Yet Munro refuses to paint an icon for worship: Enid can live as she does only because of her enabling circumstances, she experiences poisoned fantasies, and her goodwill is not unconditional. The same is true for other characters: each person in the book is carefully drawn as an individual shaped by histories, enmeshed in social structures that influence, constrain, oppress, enable, direct, oppose and support them in interconnected ways. They are at least partly responsible for their fortunes and failings, but Munro never victim-blames or hero-worships.

There are vile abusers and detestable bigots. These are villains that propel drama. Mrs Gorrie is a particularly realistic monster, but Munro skilfully uses her to unpick attitudes to disability, poverty and gender roles that are surprisingly mainstream. Sometimes no villain is required; misunderstandings and failures of empathy, the stuff of all our lives, are sufficient to push characters far enough out of their comfort zones to experience transcendence and hand it on to us. The gift Munro has is of keeping each life she fashions open, stretching past the fringes of her telling. There is no answer given, no resolution is final. We go on living.
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on 13 December 2013
I had to read this as it was a Book Club choice and perhaps was chosen because Alice Munro had recently been selected as a Nobel Prizewinner. As these are short stories and, as I understand it, most of her writing consists of short stories, some were a little worried as to how we would review it. I have to say that I didn't get time to finish the book within the month that we had. However, those that I read I found very interesting and intriguing. I didn't like the start of the first book but it all began to make sense once I got into it. I wasn't mad about the Canadian setting, unlike some of my friends, who loved it. (Yes, I know Alice Munro is Canadian!) There was quite a wide range of opinions from some who just didn't like it at all, to some who loved it. I will certainly come back to it at some time and finish it.
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on 17 April 2012
Alice Munro is (and I think there's a consensus on this) the greatest living writer in English. Though there are hits and misses among her stories, there is a huge majority of direct hits.
It would be wrong to say that she has become darker. She always believed in a good look at the worst. But she has certainly, in her later work, taken literary subtle difficult fiction into the terrain of the thriller and even horror writer. It's a combination few others have tried.
The Love of a Good Woman, for all its beauty, is one of the most horrid and frightening stories I have ever read - as confirmed on a recent admiring unwilling re-reading - what on earth is going to happen after the end of that story?
The same can be said of Save the Reaper with its hints of wild depravity.
Jakarta and The Children Stay show the long after-effects of the freedoms of the 60s and 70s on the survivors of those decades in a way that is both forgiving and unforgiving. No-one like Munro describes how long and strange life is so poetically, uncomfortably, believably.
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on 2 February 2014
I give this five stars because Alice Munro is a great writer. (I'd give 4 stars to her shopping list.) But this collection is not easy. There are some intriguing characters and themes but it has the feel of being a practise piece. It is fascinating to read about the murderous confession of an old, dying man but to get to the revealing moments, the reader has to go through long stretches where the author seems to be practising getting her eye in on character and physical description.
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on 12 March 2014
I find Alice Munro's short stories perceptive, challenging and always interesting. Her 'people' appear ordinary but often exist in extraordinary circumstances and react in ways that we can all relate to. The language is spare but the mental pictures she creates are clear and absorbing. This latest collection reflects the continuing strength of her fiction and mastery of the short story form. Highly recommended.
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on 23 January 2015
Brilliant as always - quirky off beat
characters and compelling story lines.
I found this hard to leave down and the stories are still resonating long after I read them
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on 22 April 2014
Stories that are moving, deep, affecting-this was a good, readable edition.
This is my second time through these stories and it's a great collection.
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on 4 October 2014
Too deep for me to fathom and definitely not a relaxing read.
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on 25 August 2015
Beautiful and poignant stories. Highly recommended.
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