Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
By: Alice Munro
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
In these stories lives come into focus through single events or sudden memories which bring the past bubbling to the surface. The past, as Alice Munro’s characters discover, is made up not only of what is remembered, but also what isn’t. The past is there, just out of the picture, but if memories haven’t been savoured, recalled in the mind and boxed away, it’s as if they have never been – until a moment when the pieces of the jigsaw re-form suddenly, sometimes pleasurably but more often painfully. Women look back at their young selves, at first marriages made when they were naive and trusting, at husbands and their difficult, demanding little ways. There is in this new collection an underlying heartbreak, a sense of regret in her characters for what might have been, for a fork in the road not taken, a memory suppressed in an act of prudent emotional housekeeping. But at the same time there is hope, there are second chances – here are people who reinvent themselves, seize life by the throat, who have moved on and can dare to conjure up the hidden memories, daring to go beyond what is remembered.
So I only got around to reading Alice Munro this year, having read Dear Life (review) around the beginning of summer. I meant to read her Selected Stories next, having bought it shortly after she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but instead promptly picked up this book after learning that two stories in this volume became movies some time ago (Away from Her (trailer) and Hateship Loveship (trailer). And here we are 🙂
It’s not very often that I come across a short story collection that is pretty solid from start to finish; usually there are a few stories that are a complete miss or not terribly interesting. I still have my favourites in this volume, but otherwise all of the stories featured in this book were interesting to me one way or the other, and held my attention throughout. This book truly left an impression on me of Alice Munro’s distinct voice and storytelling, weaving a story out of the everyday, the small triumphs and tragedies of life. I found myself happy for the characters when things are going well, and feeling sorry for them when they are at the cusp of losing something or someone forever.
Each of these stories featured encapsulates one of the themes in the title: friendship, bonds of family, love between couples. “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” and “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” are obviously familiar stories given that they were the ones adapted into movies in recent years. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” in particular is a rather poignant and sad story, and a curious way of closing this collection. Other stories like “Family Furnishings”, “Post and Beam”, “Comfort”, and “Nettles” were also very interesting and quite memorable.
I’m really glad I picked up Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, it’s such a solid collection from start to finish. If you haven’t read anything by Alice Munro yet, I would recommend picking this book up first as I think it’s a great introduction to her storytelling.