WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE® IN LITERATURE 2013
Alice Munro mines her rich family background, melding it with her own experiences and the transforming power of her brilliant imagination, to create perhaps her most powerful and personal collection yet.
A young boy, taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock to look across the sea to America, catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. Scottish immigrants experience love and loss on a journey that leads them to rural Ontario. Wives, mothers, fathers, and children move through uncertainty, ambivalence, and contemplation in these stories of hopes, adversity, and wonder. The View from Castle Rock reveals what is most essential in Munro’s art: her compassionate understanding of ordinary lives.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Ten collections of stories and one novel have made Alice Munro one of the most praised fiction writers of our time. In The View from Castle Rock her full range of gifts is on display: indelible characters, deep insights about human behavior and relationships, vibrant prose, and seductive, suspenseful storytelling. Munro, in a foreword, tells how, a decade ago, she began looking into her family history, going all the way back to 18th-century Scotland. This material eventually became the stories presented here in part 1, "No Advantages." Munro also worked on "a special set of stories," none of which she included in previous collections, because they were "rather more personal than the other stories I had written." They now appear here in part 2, "Home." With both parts, Munro says, she has had a free hand with invention. Munro has used personal material in her fiction before, but at 75, she has given us something much closer to autobiography. Much of the book concerns people who have died, and places and ways of life that no longer exist or have been completely transformed, and though Munro is temperamentally unsentimental the mood is often elegiac. One difficulty that can arise with this kind of hybrid work is that the reader is likely to be distracted by the itch to know whether an event really occurred, or how much has been made up or embellished. In the title story, the reader is explicitly told that almost everything has been invented, and this enthralling multilayered narrative about an early 19th-century Scottish family's voyage to the New World is the high point of the collection. On the other hand, "What Do You Want to Know For?" at the heart of which is an account of a cancer scare Munro experienced, reads like pure memoir and seems not only thin by comparison but insufficiently imagined as a short story. Perhaps none of the stories here is quite up to the mastery of earlier Munro stories such as "The Beggar Maid" or "The Albanian Virgin." But getting this close to the core of the girl who would become the master is a privilege and a pleasure not to be missed. And reliably as ever when the subject is human experience, Munro's stories-whatever the proportions of fiction and fact-always bring us the truth. (Nov.) Sigrid Nunez's most recent novel, The Last of Her Kind, will be published in paperback by Picador in December. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 06, 2006
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Excerpt from The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
This parish possesses no advantages. Upon the hills the soil is in many places mossy and fit for nothing. The air in general is moist. This is occasioned by the height of the hills which continually attract the clouds and the vapour that is continually exhaled from the mossy ground . . . The nearest market town is fifteen miles away and the roads so deep as to be almost impassable. The snow also at times is a great inconvenience, often for many months we can have no intercourse with mankind. And a great disadvantage is the want of bridges so that the traveller is obstructed when the waters are swelled . . . Barley oats and potatoes are the only crops raised. Wheat rye turnips and cabbage are never attempted . . .
There are ten proprietors of land in this parish: none of them resides in it.
Contribution by the Minister of Ettrick Parish, in the county of Selkirk, to the Statistical Account of Scotland, 1799
The Ettrick Valley lies about fifty miles due south of Edinburgh, and thirty or so miles north of the English border, which runs close to the wall Hadrian built to keep out the wild people from the north. The Romans pushed farther, and built some sort of fortifications called Antonine's Wall between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but those did not last long. The land between the two walls has been occupied for a long time by a mix of people-Celtic people, some of whom came from Ireland and were actually called Scots, Anglo-Saxons from the south, Norse from across the North Sea, and possibly some leftover Picts as well.