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on 30 September 2010
I don't often write reviews but I was very surprised to see that the only two reviewers of this collection thought it quite average. I guess that a lot of readers will be made to feel uncomfortable, as I was, by some of the subject matter. Long term illnesses are featured in several of the stories. I appreciated this. It's not an easy thing to write about, and Alice Munro does it extremely well without being sentimental. The final story was made into a film not long ago, starring Julie Christie. I had seen the film, and found it very moving. The story was probably better, I think. Many of the stories also feature women who are not entirely sympathetic, dissatisfied with their marriages or with their situations without very good reason. Several cheat or think about cheating on their partners. Again, I guess that a lot of readers don't like this, but I appreciated it. I enjoy reading about complex characters. My only, probably ridiculous complaint is that the stories are almost too well crafted to be lovable. They are, however, extremely admirable, and better than the vast majority of others I have read.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 November 2013
"Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" by Alice Munro, this year's Nobel Prize laureate for literature, is the tenth story collection author created that in the form of a short story manages to say more about life and people than most of the authors in the whole novel.

Her last collection is made of nine stories in which author using her distinct writing style once again succeeds to compel reader on thinking about own life, about the mistakes we make, about the melancholy of her characters' lives. And our own.

Munro is skillful writer who knows how to do with words, and her stories, rarely larger than 30 pages, seem like compressed novels due to her ability to show whole pictures with a sentence or two full of well-chosen words.
Her stories seem much simpler than they are really, due to her skill to look at one's whole life through small details that mark it.

They are not necessarily sad, though they are even less happy, because there are lots of shades of sadness, just like Tolstoy said that all happy families are similar one to another, and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The stories are short but, it's not easy to say what their exact theme is, though motif that runs through all of them is love that is shown how it arises. Or disappear.

Alice Munro with this collection as with all previous succeeded getting reader to think more about themselves than about the characters of her stories, they only serve as personification of reader thoughts, doubts and disappointments.
And due to that fact it's not strange that reader will feel fully drawn into her world because her world is our world, full of (unfulfilled) dreams, illusions and hopes.

Alice Munro's stories have the ability to remain long in reader's memory and for this reason, as well as all of the above-mentioned, this story collection is worth the time reader spend on its reading.
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on 31 December 2013
Best to say at the outset that I am not a Munro fan. Yes, she picks up and describes small details in a country community but in a way that fails to move me. I can appreciate her technique but in an essentially cerebral way. I can't identify with her characrers in any way and I get no emotional kick from her Writing. So this book is ok but not exciting. Try Penelope Lively if you want better value for money!
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on 14 October 2013
What powers of observation has Alice Munro! Even the ticket-seller at the station becomes a fascinating character. This is a longish short story which sets big themes in a small Canadian town, and develops them in front of the reader in a very appealing, sometimes humorous, compassionate way. Two outsiders create the drama, the heavy-boned, inelegant but decent 30-something housekeeper and a widower with a reputation for the ladies which also disguises some decency. The catalysts are two teenage girls with a bit of time on their hands. Alice Munro seems to bring the different generations together effortlessly as well as the post-war, rural past with people who are as modern and forward-looking as it is possible to be. I am impressed that the Nobel Prize judges decided to award the 2013 Literature award to her. They normally seek out big themes like war, strife and starvation. This short story, the first I have read by her, deals with big themes in normal life, though - frustration, fear, keeping your fingers crossed that things will work out and dealing with the obstacles that we all create for each other. A wonderful writer!
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on 18 January 2014
I really struggled through the first half-dozen stories and then gave up. Couldn't find anything really to engage with in any of the characters and each story left me with that awful "so what" feeling. I don't have enough life left to waste on stuff that doesn't grip me and pull me in, and this didn't.
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My introduction to Alice Munro was in reading The Love of a Good Woman: Stories, which I did around 10 years ago, and I was duly impressed. Shortly thereafter, I purchased this book, and for truly inexplicable reasons, I allowed it to gather dust on my bookshelf. The dust served as a rebuke to my housekeeping, and my judgment. Both have now finally been remedied. This book is an intense, enjoyable read, and I might even be a bit wiser, as I sort out how well this woman can observe the human condition.

As one might deduce from the subject line, Ms. Munro is Canadian, and one of their very best writers. Most of her works are short stories, and for that form, she must rank as one of the world's leading practitioners. Somewhere in high school, like others, I picked up the notion that a short story was a literary form of a "lesser god"; "real writers" wrote novels. Munro single-handedly can rectify the error in this so-called thinking.

This book is a collection of nine stories, and each one is so dense and rich that it conveys all the wonderful insights into human interactions that a full novel can. Munro has the skills of the best "mystery writer." She tosses out feints, utilizes twists and turns in the plot; she fakes and weaves, so that it would be a very rare reader indeed who could accurately predict where the story will end. And there is a wonderful eroticism imbedded in most of the stories. Not the sledgehammer version pioneered by Henry Miller, and emulated by many, but rather a far subtler one, with the focus on the tension involved in the first touching of another's flesh. With Ms. Munro just the grazing of finger-tips is far more erotic than Mr. Miller's use of flashlights. So, there is this delicious anticipation in her stories when males and females interact: will they be just "ships passing in the night," will it be a one night stand, or will that "stand" last 50 years? And in many of the stories one or more characters are involved in dealing with a particular medical condition, as our bodies wear out. There seems to always be a high level of dramatic tension that makes for a good "page turner." But if you turn too fast, "the bookmarks will measure what you lost" and Simon and Garfunkel once sung.

The sheer range of Munro's characters and their interactions is impressive. The book takes its title from the first story, in which one learns that the five words are part of a childhood game involving the matching of letters in the names of males and females. That story also involves the cruelty of teenagers in their coming of age, the miserly nature of a Scottish immigrant, the bleakness of Saskatchewan (will the last one out please turn off the lights!) and much else. "Floating Bridge" involves a woman with cancer, her husband, and a caregiver. "Comfort" concerns a teacher who dies from AIDS, and his struggles with the "creationists" at school. "Family furnishings" concerns a girl bypassing her older aunt who is a newspaper writer after she goes to university. "Nettles" involves flashbacks to youthful games (I had forgotten for many decades now how I used to make "mudballs" for war games) and the meeting of the boy and girl when they are adults, with families. "Post and Beam" concerns the visit of a cousin fleeing a bad family situation, seeking salvation via a more prosperous relative in the big city. "What is Remembered" is yet another truly marvelous story, and, inter alia, involves the memory of a one night stand that is milked for a lifetime of erotic pleasure. "Queenie" also involves the fleeing of a bad family situation in rural areas only to replicate equally dysfunctional relationships in the big city. And finally, "The Bear Comes Over the Mountain" involves a wife succumbing to Alzheimer's, and the reactions of the husband of 50 years as he is forgotten. Underscoring the density of these stories, the last one was made into a movie, but I was not able to find it at Amazon (almost certainly it has a different title). I'd welcome comments as to the name of the movie.

And as a sampling of the richness of her prose and insights, consider the following: "The unspeakable excitement you feel when a galloping disaster promises to release you from all responsibility for your own life." Or: "Fighting over whether their God was named Jehovah or Krishna...or whether it was okay to eat pork, getting down on their knees and howling out their prayers to some Old Codger in the sky who took a big interest in who won wars and football games." Or: "Lust that had given me shooting pains in the night was all chastened and trimmed back now into a tidy pilot flame, attentive, wifely." And most impressively: "The shame he felt then was the shame of being duped, or not having noticed the change that was going on. And not one woman had made him aware of it. There had been the change in the past when so many women so suddenly became available- or it seemed that way to him- and now this new change, when they were saying that what had happened was not what they had had in mind at all. They had collaborated because they were helpless and bewildered, and they had been injured by the whole thing, rather than delighted. Even when they had taken the initiative they had done so only because the cards were stacked against them."

And so back to where the story all began: A wonderful, marvelous, 6-star read.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on September 01, 2010)
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on 22 December 2013
Fantastic short stories; you could say every story is a condensed novel. I liked the surprises in particular - she manages frequently to turn the story in an unexpected direction and so change the reader's perception completely. A writing friend of mine said: "She breaks all writers' rules and still manages to compose elegant tales".
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on 24 October 2014
A little disappointing. Too many stories set in small towns of Canada. I'm sure there is appeal here for the people who live in Canada but otherwise I believe the appeal is limited. The stories are well-crafted; however, especially the ones with shocking endings.
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on 15 January 2014
What a find! Stories that speak out to me only as Inci Aral's can (and soon you will be able read her in English too). Credible, fast-moving, heart-warming. Perfect read at the end of the day to vindicate all that we do to stay human.
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on 23 August 2013
I didnt enjoy this as much as I had hoped - I found its style a little dull... perfect if you want an easy unchallenging bedtime read!
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