Saturday, 20 February 2010

Book Review: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro

Grade: 2 stars*

Novellus Malus!

Amazon appetizer:
Readers know what they are going to get when they pick up an unfamiliar Alice Munro collection, and yet almost every page carries a bounty of unexpected action, feeling, language, and detail. Her stories are always unique, blazing an invigorating originality out of her seemingly commonplace subjects. Each collection develops her oeuvre in increments, subtly expanding her range.

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is, of course, no exception. It is a fairly conservative collection of nine stories, none of which move far beyond Munro's favored settings: the tiny towns and burgeoning cities of southern Ontario and British Columbia. There are glimpses of youth here--in the title story, an epistolary prank by two teenage girls leads to a one-sided cross country elopement and, seemingly, a happy marriage, and in "Nettles," disrupted childhood affection fleetingly returns through a chance meeting--but most of these pieces are stories of aging women and men, confronting the twin travails of death and late love. As is always the case with Munro, their plots are too elegantly elaborate to summarize, and their unsentimental power is a given; baroque praise would be futile. Read these stories--it is the only way to really understand the miracles that Munro so regularly performs. --Jack Illingworth

My thoughts: This collection of short stories was my introduction to Alice Munro's world and writing. It is not light reading material, not ideal if you seek some fluffy escapism, but each novella will stay long with you and make you think. Her short stories are like snapshots of the lives of her characters, this was something that I personally don't like: I prefer a story to have a beginning, a middle and an ending, it bothered me that I didn't get a glipmse of what would happen to the characters after the middle of the story, but it is just a personal preference.

I have read that Alice Munro is called the Canadian Chekhov, and I have to agree, the athmosphere of her stories is very reminiscent of Chekhov: her stories, the repressed tension, all the hidden feelings and reasons behind the peaceful exterior are simmering and make the reader tense up, feeling the progressive build up of tension and unavoidable explosion coming.

This was not a light and enjoyable read but rather an unsettling drama, the storylines and problems kept me thinking long after finishing the story.

Plot: 4/10
Characters: 8/10
Ending: 6/10
Writing: 7/10
Cover: 8/10

* (Please note that this low grade does not reflect the quality of the novel but my reaction to it and how I much I enjoyed reading it.)

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