Author: Alice Munro
Original language: English
The award-winning Canadian writer Alice Munro’s collection Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage is about the lives, hopes, dreams and ends of women: their marriages, their relationships with those who touch their lives in some momentous way-however brief or long-standing-and the extraordinary effects wrought by the hand of fate. She is not only a genius storyteller, she has a cunning ability to make you believe the short story you’ve just read was actually a full-length novel. So if you’ve ever thought twice about buying a book of short stories, then the marvellous Alice Munro will make you think again…
Munro’s world is one of post-war Canada, when women are beginning to experience a constrained kind of freedom. In “What is Remembered”, a chance meeting at a funeral has a profound, yet stabilising effect on Meriel, a young wife and mother. “Young husbands”, writes Munro, “were stern in those days”. Between learning how to kowtow to bosses and manage wives, there was so much else to learn: mortgages, lawns and politics for a start. The wives, meantime, were afforded the opportunity of “a second kind of adolescence”-but only in the confines of the family home, while the men were absent, and only after wifely jobs were accounted for. In the book’s title story, a capable, spinsterly housekeeper finds love in the most unexpected place, in the most unexpected way. However the opportunity presents itself, it is what you choose to make of it that really matters, the author seems to be saying. Johanna could be deeply disappointed with her “opportunity” but, in her straightforward way, amends a few details and makes the most of it.
Alice Munro’s stories are retrospective; tales of lives lived, for better or worse. If you want something, take it, quickly. You only get one life, and this is it.