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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 18 months ago by David Williams

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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 8 months ago by Phil O'Sofa


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly last, possibly best, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Dear Life (Kindle Edition)
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 their limitation but their strength. There are no extra trappings to distract from the sensibilities of the (generally female) central characters. The simplicity in the telling belies the complexity of the felt experience but brings us in to experience it virtually at first hand. There is a particularly quality of wistfulness about these late stories, as if the author has turned for one last contemplative look back down a road travelled and not to be returned upon, as if each story carries a personal memory, not simply a story-teller's conjuration.

This is certainly true of the last four pieces which the author introduces with an explanation that these are indeed memoir not stories. They gain an extra poignancy by being avowedly autobiographical, and they add to the sense of valediction. I do hope, however, this is not to be Ms Munro's farewell.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 8 Dec 2012
By 
D. Abington "Barringer A" (Isle of Wight) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dear Life (Kindle Edition)
Alice Munro is one of the best writers in the English speaking world. I have read none better. This collection confirms this and more. The stories are sparse, but contain more about the human condition than most novels twice the length. Some of the stories hit you in the pit of the stomach with their strange and rather frightening denouments. It takes several days before you can go back and continue reading. One imparticular is 'Train'. The thing about her stories is that you can go back and read them again and again and get a completely different angle on a story. Like life really. This collection is nothing but brilliant as with all her books.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, 28 Dec 2013
This review is from: Dear Life (Paperback)
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 don't rate as highly as some of her earlier collections.

As with most of Alice Munro's work, we cover long periods of time in a short space, usually with a quick summing up at the end, the main theme being, I suppose, how lives change; birth, sex and death.
Most of the stories are set around the end of the Second World War, some a little later, and one thing that struck me, about some of them at least, was the way the main female character was so easily led into a sexual relationship by a man who was clearly taking advantage of her, as if she had no say in the matter. (I'm thinking here especially of the second story, Amundsen, but it applies to the first one as well, and several others too). Perhaps this is the author's point; that women were badly treated by domineering men even more in those days than they are now, and they sometimes submitted without apparent protest.

My main criticism is that some of these stories require the reader to believe in unlikely events, without actually making them seem believable. Short tories don't give much scope for things such as plot and character development, so there's a risk that they just seem like a pointless attempt at a bit of drama; someone dies unexpectedly, but so what? It's only fiction. We aren't given the chance to really get involved, so why should we care?
Another minor point is that some of these stories are written in the first person, yet we never get to know much about the various narrators; I assumed always that they were female, because they mostly are and of course the author is a woman, but then one story, we discover near the end, is narrated by a man, which threw me a bit.
The final four stories in this collection are autobiographical in nature, and although this might make them of interest to some, I found them fairly tame compared to the fictional stuff. But there again, it's all very well written and easy to read. Just don't expect to become engrossed, as you might with a good novel.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Collection, 5 Dec 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dear Life (Hardcover)
Alice Munro's latest book is an intriguing collection of fourteen short stories, set in rural towns near to Lake Huron, Ontario, where the author lives. In the first story 'To Reach Japan' we meet Greta, a poet who is married to Peter and has a young child, Katy. Greta is travelling on a train to house sit for a friend, while Peter starts a new job in the far north of the country. On the train, Greta meets a young actor and, after several drinks he suggests they go to his berth for sex. Greta leaves her sleeping daughter in their compartment and gives in to a moment of total abandonment with her young lover. When she returns to her compartment, Katy has disappeared and although they are later reunited, Greta is shocked that her moment of passion could have resulted in the permanent loss of her daughter. Feeling dreadfully guilty, Greta vows to always put her daughter first, so when she arrives at her destination and is met by an acquaintance with a "determined and celebratory" kiss, is Greta tempted or does she remember her silent promise to Katy and spurn his advances?

In 'Gravel' we are introduced to two sisters, who live in a trailer with their mother and her lover, close to a potentially dangerous water-filled quarry. The girls' mother has left their safe and boring father after becoming pregnant with her lover's child, and the two sisters' lives are consequently dramatically changed. The younger sister begins to adapt, but when her older sister, who is struggling to cope with their change in circumstances, commits an act that has terrible consequences for her and the rest of her family, our young heroine is left shocked and emotionally scarred. When years later she is advised to "Accept everything and then tragedy disappears... or lightens anyway" she tries to let go of the past, but with the terrible incident running continually through her mind, will she ever truly be able to move on?

In 'In the Sight of a Lake' we meet a confused lady who leaves her husband watching the match on TV and takes a trip in her car to see a specialist about her "mind problem" - or does she? In 'Corrie' we are introduced to the eponymous heroine who is described as having "bright white teeth...high cheekbones...and not much meat on the bone" who is lame in one leg. When Corrie embarks upon an affair with a married man, she finds herself in the unenviable position of being blackmailed by an employee of hers. When the blackmail threat finishes, we discover Corrie has been deceived in quite a different way to how we, and she, had originally thought. In the 'Finale' of the book, Alice Munro tells us the four works contained within are not quite stories but "the first and last - and closest - things I have to say about my own life" and these make for an unusual and interesting ending to the collection.

Alice Munro's clever and clear-sighted stories demonstrate how chance encounters and twists of fate can lead people's lives down quite different paths to those they had planned or imagined for themselves. These stories benefit from being read, absorbed and then, possibly, read again - you may find that you discover something second time around that you didn't quite catch at the first reading; so this is one to keep on the bookshelf for those times when you have a few moments to spare, but not enough time to get involved in a full-length novel.

4 Stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 4 Jan 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dear Life (Paperback)
This is our current book group choice and I must also admit my first foray into Alice Munro's writings. One thing that perhaps I should make people aware of, if like me this is your first time, then disregard the hype. There is a lot of hype surrounding Alice Munro, and this book as well, some of it deserved, but also quite a bit that is perhaps misleading, so forget what you may have read or been told about this and just read it and base it on the merits that you find in it.

This is a collection of short stories, some of which have been published before, and the last four pieces here are as the author herself describes them, autobiographical and not really stories as such. Munro writes with at times a broad brush stroke conveying scenes and people, giving an impression rather than a deeply descriptive story. At times we are led gradually into what has happened in the past to a character, as for instance in one story a man jumps off a train, but it isn't really until later we find out why he got off where he did, instead of waiting until he reached home. By playing with your expectations in this way Munro manages to keep you absorbed and compelled to carry on, and find out what the ultimate ending will be to each story.

Perhaps not for everyone, for a start you have to be into short stories, this collection does make for a very interesting and entertaining read that will hopefully give us much to discuss at our next meeting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spare and soaring, 3 Mar 2013
This review is from: Dear Life (Hardcover)
Quiet, gimmick-free brilliance. A haunting, insightful storyteller of small town lives and the past, Munro is expert at communicating what's left unsaid, with this collection carrying the added resonance of an apparent valediction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was expecting so much more..., 24 April 2014
By 
Lola (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dear Life (Kindle Edition)
I have not read anything by Alice Munro before the Nobel Prize was awarded to her in 2013. I was a bit disconcerted when I finished this book - this collection of 14 short stories boasts "Winner of The Man Booker International Prize" and "Winner of the Nobel Prize", the stories - yet I could not imagine the Booker and Nobel prizes being awarded for this anthology. Yes, this is misleading. Alice Munro received, as I later found out, both prizes as recognition for a life of great writing, specifically short stories. And I agree with other reviews, that this specific collection of her latest works is not as breathtaking as her previous works. The prizes don't apply specifically to these latest works, which I don't rate as highly as short stories of some other authors. And here I tried to forget the fact that Munro won the Nobel prize for fiction, but every time I would finish the story, my mind would start wondering... Is this Nobel prize worthy literature? (But then again, Nobel committee nowadays are somewhat biased - what about giving the Peace award to Barack Obama, controversially, in 2009, in the middle of the Iraq conflict).

I was looking forward to the enjoyable collection of stories and essay praising life, reminding us the life is "dear". And yet nothing in the book indicates that life is - and should be - dear to us. The observations and the thoughts of the author depicting human behaviour are great, but then, they are almost out of place. The stories itself drag along, they are passive and docile, and very rarely they stirred my emotions (I loved the "Voices", of which I was thinking for a few days after I finished the book). All in all, I found it hard, and actually gave up in the end, to identify with any of the characters, and I did not find any empathy for any of the protagonists.

Am I biased? Was the "Nobel" predisposing me to something truly astonishing? I am not in any rush to read more of Alice Munro. But if you are, like me, very much into short stories, check out Swim Back to Me (Vintage Contemporaries) - a truly wonderful collection by Ann Packer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new author for me., 19 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Dear Life (Kindle Edition)
Never having read any of Alice Munro, I decided to investigate her writings after she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I really enjoyed this book of short stories which could be any from any community in any country because it is based on human nature its foibles and prejudices and constraints. I look forward to reading more of her work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The author shows us melancholy of our everyday existence, of the world we all live in, 9 April 2014
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dear Life (Paperback)
"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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars late vintage, 10 Nov 2013
This review is from: Dear Life (Paperback)
The only other (Nobel-prize-winning) Alice Munro I've read was 'The progress of love', nineteen years ago, and I remember being very impressed. Key moments in a couple of those stories have stayed with me ever since. So, despite not being a fan of the short form, I was looking forward to this reading-group pick.

It was all right, I suppose, especially the autobiographical pieces at the end, and there were echoes in places of the wonderful novelist Anne Tyler, but for those who haven't tried Munro's stories, I would recommend starting with an earlier vintage than 'Dear life'.
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