Review: The View from Castle Rock

Posted 29 December, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The View from Castle Rock
By: Alice Munro
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

A powerful new collection from one of our most beloved, admired, and honoured writers.

In stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World; a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border.

Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape and strong emotions stir just beneath the surface of ordinary comings and goings. First love flowers under the apple tree, while a stronger emotion presents itself in the barn. A girl hired as summer help, and uneasy about her ‘place’ in the fancy resort world she’s come to, is transformed by her employer’s perceptive parting gift. A father whose early expectations of success at fox farming have been dashed finds strange comfort in a routine night job at an iron foundry. A clever girl escapes to college and marriage.

Evocative, gripping, sexy, unexpected these stories reflect a depth and richness of experience. The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.

Another day, another Alice Munro book 🙂 This book sounds a bit different from her other titles as it weaves in some of her own family history as the foundation to which these stories stem from. So yeah, I picked it up on a whim earlier this year and decided to read it a few months ago 🙂

It absolutely pains me to say this but I just could not get into this book. I mean, on a technical standpoint it’s Alice Munro writing what she does best: quiet stories about everyday life from ordinary, everyday people. The stories this time more or less follow some chronological pattern, starting with a story set in Scotland in the 1800s and their gradual emigration to North America. Again, it’s interesting to see how she uses the material she’s learned from her family background into these stories. There’s a lot more historical fiction vibes coming from these stories as characters are emigrating to the New World, and the hardships they faced.

Unfortunately I just didnt care for the characters. I couldn’t engage with these stories compared to her other works. I don’t know if it’s partly because the subject of immigration is one that I studied to the ground when I was in school, but I just didn’t care at all where the stories of these characters were headed. I also wouldn’t recommed this book as a starting point for those wanting to read Alice Munro (I’d recommend these titles instead) as it’s not as interesting or as vibrant as some of her other stories. So yes, 3 stars because it’s Alice Munro writing as she does, but 2 stars for the lack of engagement as a reader; hence the final rating.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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2 Responses to “Review: The View from Castle Rock”

    • Oooh, an excellent question! *excuse to pull out her “So You Want to Read…” recommendations for Alice Munro* 😀

      I’d definitely recommend Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (review) as a great starting point for new readers to Alice Munro’s works; it especially helps that two of the short stories in that collection were made into movies (not that I’ve seen them–but they look great!). I’d also recommend Runaway (review); I read it earlier this year and was just blown away by it.

      I hope this helps and that you enjoy her stories when you get to it; there’s something about Alice Munro’s writing that I love so much, not to mention how she really gets the human condition and the things we go through and process internally.

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