Book Review: Selected Stories by Alice Munro (1996)

Release: 1996

It’s been a long time. I have fallen behind both in reviews and books in general. Goodreads says I’m three books behind, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up. This particular book has been sitting on my shelf for sometime. It was purchased for me as a present soon after Alice Munro won the nobel prize for literature. It seemed like a fitting choice to represent Canada. Selected Stories is made up of a selection of Alice’s stories that didn’t appear in her other books. These all appeared in different journals and many came from The New Yorker. While many of collections were released together, these stories were all published over a long span of time, 1961-1994, so they present a more complete picture of her career. It is difficult to judge the book as a whole since it covers so much of her career, I feel the best way to describe it is as a rollercoaster. Some of the stories blew me away and pushed me to read further, the problem was the following story wouldn’t always have the same effect.

To cover this adequately I’ll take about some things I liked that flowed through most of the stories. The biggest one is how she masters the mundane. Somehow she paints an incredibly detailed picture simply. She says more with what she doesn’t write. Characters silences and reactions, speak of an elaborate and seemingly real history. The characters are in no way flat. There is complexity in them that reflects real life. I can only imagine the difficulty in writing such dynamic characters. This is important to any story, but here all the conflict is purely driven by the characters and rarely present events. The conflict frequently goes unsaid, but some how still understood. She is a master of realism and simplicity. The stories themselves can’t really be described as being about much, but so frequently they are captivating.

I read these over a long time, and finished them a few months ago, so my analysis will be cut short. I usually am not a big fan of short story compilations as I often lose my motivation to continue between stories. If you don’t plan on picking Selected Stories, at least cherry pick a few of Munro’s best stories. Walker Brothers Cowboy, Postcard, Images, Royal Beatings, The Beggar Maid, Simon’s Luck, Dulse, The Turkey Season, Fits, The Wilderness Station are all fantastic reads, but the highlight for me was Miles City, Montana. Before winning the nobel prize, I had never heard of Alice Munro. It is interesting to see so much talent in an author I had never before encountered. I feel based on this book that she probably deserved the award and I look forward to checking out her other collections. I’d give Selected Stories a 4 out of 5 stars.

35 Novels from 35 Countries

  1. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (England)
  2. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Denmark)
  3. The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
  4. The Stranger by Albert Camus (France)
  5. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (Chile)
  6. Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)
  7. The Heart Of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa)
  8. The Woman In The Dunes by Kobo Abe (Japan)
  9. The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russia)
  10. All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Germany)
  11. Selected Stories by Alice Munro (Canada)

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