By: Alice Munro
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Spanning almost thirty years and settings that range from big cities to small towns and farmsteads of rural Canada, this magnificent collection brings together twenty-eight stories by a writer of unparalleled wit, generosity, and emotional power. In her Selected Stories, Alice Munro makes lives that seem small unfold until they are revealed to be as spacious as prairies and locates the moments of love and betrayal, desire and forgiveness, that change those lives forever. To read these stories–about a traveling salesman and his children on an impromptu journey; an abandoned woman choosing between seduction and solitude–is to succumb to the spell of a writer who enchants her readers utterly even as she restores them to their truest selves.
This was actually the first collection of stories by Alice Munro that I bought, but I ended up reading all the other books by her that I bought afterwards before finally getting around to this book. I had picked this book up shortly after it was announced that she won the Nobel Prize in Literature; I thought it would be a good place to start as I had never read any of her stories. Well, now that I’ve exhausted all of the collections on my TBR pile, I finally turned to read this one 😉
To be honest, I didn’t find this collection as exciting or as poignant as those in Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (review) or Runaway (review). Unlike those titles, the stories in this collection felt a bit more remote, I found I couldn’t quite relate to these characters’ experiences or really feel for the characters at all. I’m not sure if it’s because of the setting or the time period in which many of these stories are set in–almost all of these stories are set in rural Canada in the early to mid-twentieth century–or it’s just that their experiences are just too foreign for me to truly understand, the themes of the story bogged down by their everyday lives as opposed to heightening it. But I found as the stories progressed, they begin to take on complicated relationships and other elements that I’ve seen in her later stories (e.g. “Lichen”), so I’m thinking maybe her early works are just remarkably different from her later ones.
Suffice to say there were a number of stories that I read and enjoyed from this collection: “Postcards”, “The Turkey Season”, “The Moons of Jupiter”, and “Carried Away” just to name a few. Despite of the time period, many of these stories are familiar in themes found in her later stories: themes of discontent, people and situations not quite what they seem, relationships falling apart (this happens a lot in these stories, it can bit a bit depressing, really), disappointment. I thought “The Albanian Virgin” was also a really interesting story because it’s the only story I’ve read from her to date that’s not set in North America; I thought that was intriguing and it really stood out in my mind.
Overall, I’m glad to have finally read Selected Stories because I’m not sure if I would’ve wandered into the earlier half of her bibliography. It’s a bit of a mixed bag though, some stories are more interesting than others, at least in my experience. If you’re interested in reading Alice Munro’s books, I’d recommend checking out her later collections first before venturing to this one as I felt it was quite different.