32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly last, possibly best
Canadian writer Alice Munro is the undisputed queen of the short story format and this collection, which the author (approaching 82) hints may be her last, may also be her best.
The stories are all set in familiar Munro territory around Lake Huron and all of them revolve around small incidents in generally modest, some would say ordinary, lives. That is not...
Published 16 months ago by David Williams
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best
Although this collection of 14 short stories helped Alice Munro win the Nobel Prize for literature, and the cover of my edition says `Winner of The Man Booker International Prize', this is misleading. Both awards are recognition for a long history of great writing. And fair enough, who can argue with that? But they don't apply specifically to these latest works, which I...
Published 6 months ago by Phil O'Sofa
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5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed reading it,
It is a fine collection of short stories very well written and highly enjoyable. I recommend it anyone who enjoys reading good fiction
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moment in Time,
The stories in 'Dear Life' give the reader insight into a range of individuals who have to live with the consequences of the decisions or chance encounters of a moment. A man steps down from a train, a woman and her daughter board a train, a new job renews an old acquaintance, a brief encounter at a party creates a whole arc of connection to a love affair: these moments are inextricably enmeshed in the texture of otherwise ordinary lives. Munro's written style is not overtly literary, but modest and readable, in the same way that wholesome food is delicious and satisfying beyond its simple ingredients.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad but realistic about life and the choices we make,
Alice Munro is a brilliant writer with much insight about the human condition and how easily mistakes are made. The wrong decision changes our direction and path in life.
5.0 out of 5 stars The author shows us melancholy of our everyday existence, of the world we all live in,
"Dear Life: Stories" by Alice Munro is her latest story collection in which with her special literary style she succeeds to shows us melancholy of our everyday existence.
Not all of her stories are sorrowful, instead they are not happy, like the ordinary days in our life aren't pure happiness, in her stories reader won't find happy endings or easy problem resolutions, as is often the case.
It's hard to define what the themes of her stories are, most of the times it's only the one moment when your life is heading in a different direction than what you hoped for, what do you expected...
She focuses on that specific time or event when such things are happening, when our future is changing, and at this time her characters aren't aware of it.
In most occasions it's almost unbelievable to see how much small choices can affect our future, how some tiny moment in one of our days can shape our destiny.
And this is something that makes Alice Munro special because the reader while reading her stories really thinks about her/his life, about her/his decisions, about our moments that already happened or will happen that will change our fate.
You'll find yourself so deeply drawn into her stories that you'll be sure you know these people, that you can give them good advice, you will criticize their bad decisions, that you want to help them even you know they won't listen anyway...
Due to that, these are stories that will stay in your mind for a long time after you'll close last page and therefore I can only recommend you to step into author's world, the world that isn't fictional, the world in which we all live.
5.0 out of 5 stars Elusive and inspiring,
These stories are subtle while evoking an array of characters, individual and fascinating. When the image or shape of a character stays with you long after you've read it, you know you have read so etching special.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Organic Writing,
Such luminous writing - and I'm not just saying that because she won the Nobel Prize last year, but that she is truly an exceptional writer of the short form, as I have observed of her retrospective anthology, Carried Away: A Selection of Stories.
Munro's latest, and purportedly, her last collection, "Dear Life", sparkles with her acute sense of what makes people tick, and these stories delve under the layers of human behaviour to confront the (shocking and yet familiar) motivations behind façades in a probing, yet non-judgemental way. Most impressively, Munro manages to clinch the point she's making in such an understated and almost blasé fashion, that it is easy to miss its significance if you are not paying attention, but if you do, the rewards are stellar.
In the first story, "To Reach Japan", Greta, on the train with her young daughter, meets a young couple, and the man starts to entertain her daughter. Through Greta's thoughts, Munro articulates what a mother feels when someone shows their children affection, hoping they won't get hurt in the end: "Greta was hoping that he wasn't one of those adults who make friends with children mostly to test their own charms, then grow bored and grumpy when they realize how tireless a child's affections can be".
In "Leaving Maverley", an ex-policeman, Ray, with an ailing wife, Isabel, reels with shock when she finally dies in a hospital, even though he has been expecting it: "She had existed and now she did not. Not at all, as if not ever. And people hurried around, as if this outrageous fact could be overcome by making sensible arrangements. He, too, obeyed the customs, signing where he was told to sign, arranging - as they said - for the remains." Munro doles out the pathos of this moment , but not without driving home the aptly-placed bitter humour of the next lines: "What an excellent word - `remains.' Like something left to dry out in sooty layers in a cupboard."
Another feature of Munro's short stories that makes them so engaging is the very organic nature of the narration. The peripheral takes centerstage when you least expect it, and apparently minor characters come to some prominence, and yet fading away at critical junctures, just like how life is. For example, in "Leaving Maverley" above, the story starts not with Ray the policeman, but Morgan Holly, the owner and projectionist of a movie theatre in Maverley, and Leah, a teenager, who comes to work as a ticket seller.
The organic nature of Munro's storytelling is so insidious that it sometimes thwarts the reader's expectations, and you find yourself reading a very different story from that which you start out with. In the wonderfully-written "In Sight of the Lake", a woman who is in fear of developing dementia drives out to the specialist clinic a day early to familiarise herself with her appointment, and makes an unlikely friend in a brief encounter, but the story develops into a suspenseful tale, that is arguably more in the vein of a Stephen King piece.
Munro pointedly separates fact from fiction in the last 4 pieces in the ominously-titled section, "Finale", where she explains that these works "are not quite stories. They form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes entirely so in fact." Perhaps Munro understands the fictional worlds that she creates are so authentic and "life-like", that she needs to remind the reader that they are not real life. She has done this previously in her memoir-like collection, The View From Castle Rock, which she took pains to explain that they were based on her experiences, but not fact.
But for all the distinction Munro makes in the "Finale" section, the reader is confused when he or she confronts these lines in the titular "Dear Life" of the "autobiographical" section. When describing her childhood neighbour whom she does not know, she explains: "Rory Grain, his name was, and he does not have any further part in what I'm writing now, in spite of his troll's name, because this is not a story, only life." Well, yes. Perhaps. But Munro has made such an art of making her stories look like life, that the distinction is spurious. And I for one, am happily befuddled.
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing,
These are stories which force you to ask questions and make your brain work, but in a good way. A stunning writer who I've only just discovered. This will stay on my shelf and I will read it again, and again...
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
I was really looking forward to this one but found it rather dull. Stories felt quite repetitive in theme and a bit listless.
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing compared to what I expected,
I thought most of the stories were well written but some , particularly the first two were rather confusing. There are no opportunity to develop the characters in short stories and I felt some could have been more interesting as longer stories.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet,
A lovely, delicate book - reminded me of faded rose petals, full of nostalia for a time past. However, the past is also seen as brutal, with children being neglected and lovers tricked or deceived. Her style is both lyrical and matter-of-fact while her characters all seem a little detached as if they're not wholly engaged in their existence, or as if life sweeps over them without their fully understanding it. This is a thought provoking and interesting collection of stories.
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Dear Life by Alice Munro (Hardcover - 15 Nov 2012)
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