Thursday, December 27, 2007

'The Love of a Good Woman'

by Alice Munro

Fiction/Short Stories, 1998
Vintage UK, trade pb, 339 p.
Winner of the Giller Prize, 1998
Unruly, ungovernable, unpredictable, unexpected, funny, sexy and completely recognisable – these are the women that Alice Munro exposes in this brilliant new collection that confirms her genius for entering the lives of ordinary people and capturing the passions and contradictions that lie just below the surface. The Love of a Good Woman is not as pure and virtuous as it seems: as in her title story it can be needy and murderous. Here are women behaving badly, leaving husbands and children, running off with unsuitable lovers, pushing everyday life to the limits, and if they don't behave badly, they think surprising and disturbing thoughts.
I’m beginning to understand now why people rave about Alice Munro, calling her “one of the world’s masters of the short story”. I read Runaway a couple of years ago and wasn’t terribly impressed. It was my first time to read anything by her and while I enjoyed the stories and the characters, in that collection, the stories seemed to become quite formulaic as I read on, each story following the same pattern. I wrote in my book log: ‘thoughtful ideas but not worked to their full potential’. But what do I know because it did win the Giller Prize in 2004 after all. I finally decided to try Munro again and put The Love of a Good Woman on my Book Awards Challenge list, this one having also won the Giller earlier on, in 1998. This time around, except for the loose theme of women and love tying them together, each story was quite different. The characters really came to life and the unexpected twists were realistic, sometimes dramatic, but never predictable as I’d felt they were in Runaway. I like how Amazon describes this collection as “classic Munro: secrets, love, betrayal, and the stuff of ordinary lives”. Munro is like the proverbial fly on the wall, making no judgements on right or wrong, but simply letting the characters make their choices and then dealing with the consequences. Each story was engaging and while I have already forgotten some of them, others refuse to leave, bits of them still lurking in my thoughts. I’m glad I gave her a second chance. I won’t be quite so hesitant to read more by her in the future.
What if people really did that--sent their love through the mail to get rid of it? What would it be that they sent? A box of chocolates with centers like the yolks of turkey's eggs. A mud doll with hollow eye sockets. A heap of roses slightly more fragrant than rotten. A package wrapped in bloody newspaper that nobody would want to open.
Interview with Alice Munro

My Rating: 3.5/5

(#51 for 2007, Book Awards Challenge #3, 2nds Challenge #4, O'Canada Challenge #4)


  1. Great review. I've wanted to read some Munro for a while now, but I really didn't know where to start. This sounds like a good place!

  2. I think I have a copy of Runaway in my TBR collection. I don't read short stories often and tend to be more picky about them than I am when it comes to reading full length novels, but I do enjoy a good one. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one!

  3. Andi- So many people rave about her I wondered what I was missing. I'm glad I tried again.

    Wendy- Maybe it was a timing thing with Runaway, who knows? But this time I really felt like I got to know the characters, even in a short time, and the stories weren't predictable. They were good! :)


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you and I read every single one!

P.S. In an effort to eliminate spam, I moderate all comments, so there will most likely be a delay between when you submit the comment and when it appears on the post. Please let me know if you have any trouble leaving comments here, and you can also chat with me on Twitter, if you prefer. Happy Reading!