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on 5 July 2015
While not every story in 'Dear Life' appealed to me, and it's true that the overall effect is that of mellow, overwhelming sadness, I can absolutely see why Alice Munro was given the Nobel prize. Her writing covers such an enormous range of human emotions yet it is taut as a drum, no waffling whatsoever - sentimental or otherwise. This relentless economy is perhaps what some readers find hard to cope with; plus, people nowadays seem to whine all the time that 'Oooo, argh, the characters aren't to my liking!', to which I would say grow up, people, or go back to reading children's books. In the adult world, the gold standard is NOT to produce saccharine, "likeable-at-all-cost" stuff, but well-written characters and stories.

And boy, does Alice Munro know how to do it. This book contains 'Amundsen' which is, for my money, the most beautiful and heart-breaking love story ever written (bar Joyce's 'The Dead'). It is so elegant and atmospheric, I felt transported inside of a 1940s film, and it tugs at your heartstrings without even trying. I can't ever remember shouting 'Whaaaat?!' in the middle and then being reduced to tears by a single, unexpected little sentence at the end of one little story.

Sure, we won't feel all warm and fuzzy inside after reading this book, but then again, real life also rarely leaves us feeling full of beans, does it? I love this writer for showing so much respect for us, her readers, by refusing to sugar-coat anything.
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on 22 November 2017
First off I confess to not having read many short story collections, so I was pleased when my book group chose Dear Life by Alice Munro - a writer I've be meaning to read for some time. Set mostly in small town Canada, Munro's characters are vivid, her prose spare yet filled with the kind of precise detail of everyday life that brings settings alive. This was a real mixed bag of stories, woven loosely around leaving, chance meetings, hinted at abusive relationships. Those I loved - including Gravel and Dolly - will stay with me for some time. However there were a few where I struggled to grasp the characters' motivation for acting as they did - making this a four rather than a five star read for me. That said, I particularly enjoyed the final three semi-autobiographical stories, which offered the reader an insight into Munro's challenging early life.
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on 10 June 2016
Short stories in a familiar mould from Alice Munro. The first group are told retrospectively and relate events that have taken place in the 1940s and 1950s. Then there are a couple of stories set in modern times, one about dementia, one about an old couple encountering an old flame of one of the partners. Finally there are four stories that are said by the author to have an autobiographical feel.

The stories have the familiar ability to surprise while remaining fully within the confines of everyday life and where plot developments also have the feel of the inevitable. They are often touching. Most revolve around the theme of love in some shape or form. The autobiographical stories have perhaps a bit less to recommend themselves as stories - less plot development and fewer surprises.

This does not have any sense of breaking new ground. It's unlikely to disappoint those who have enjoyed Alice Munro's other books.
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on 18 February 2017
This was our chosen book club read and, struggling with time, I was delighted to have short stories on the list so that I could still comment even if I hadn't read them all.

Whilst there's no doubt that they're beautifully written and the scenery and weather is a stunning feature, I found the lack of plot, characterisation and character motivation made it a difficult read. Whilst I don't need everything spelt out, I personally do like some sort of understanding as to why certain things happen. I'm sure many will find the beauty in the unexplained but this wasn't for me personally.
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on 4 March 2016
Short stories set in small town Canada, mostly in the mid twentieth century. Similar family background in all stories, often including some religious element and minor disability. The writing cleverly portrays the people, time and place without using much description. However, the stories are unresolved, stopping quite suddenly, and none of them end happily or optimistically. The characters and the narratives are strangely unemotional despite being sad.
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on 19 November 2013
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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on 16 November 2014
I read this whilst on holidays in the summer and was thoroughly captivated. The writing style made me feel as if I was in the story watching it unfold around me, and I completely lost track of time. It has been a while since I read a book that made me so completely loose track of time.
I liked the format of different short stories, different pictures unfolding with each story.
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on 29 April 2014
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.
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on 27 October 2013
I always think short stories are more difficult to write - you don't have the luxury of slowly unravelling a story. Alice Munro is a brilliant writer - even though there were some stories that ended rather unusually - the writing was so good, you just enjoy every page for itself. I thought I would just dip in and out of this book, but found it hard to put down once I'd begun. Recommend it.
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on 4 March 2014
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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