Friday, 28 November 2014

Family Furnishings: Selected Stories 1995-2004

Author: Alice Munro
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 640
Source: Random House of Canada
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart
First Published: November 11, 2014
First Line: "For the last couple of decades, there has been a museum in Walley, dedicated to preserving photos and butter churns and horse harnesses and an old dentist's chair and a cumbersome apple peeler and such curiosities as the pretty porcelain-and-glass insulators that were used on telegraph poles."

Book Description from GoodReads:  From the recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature-perhaps our most beloved author-a new selection of her peerless short fiction, gathered from the collections of the last two decades, a companion volume to "Selected Stories (1968-1994)." 

By all accounts, no Nobel Prize in recent years has garnered the enthusiastic reception that Alice Munro's has, and in its wake, her reputation and readership has skyrocketed worldwide. Now," Family Furnishings" will bring us twenty-five of her most accomplished, most powerfully affecting stories, most of them set in the territory she has so brilliantly made her own: the small towns and flat lands of southwestern Ontario. Subtly honed with the author's hallmark precision, grace, and compassion, these stories illuminate the ordinary but quite extraordinary particularity in the lives of men, women, and children as they discover sex, fall in love, part, quarrel, head out into the unknown, suffer defeat, find a way to be in the world. As the Nobel Prize presentation speech reads in part: "Reading one of Alice Munro's texts is like watching a cat walk across a laid dinner table. A brief short story can often cover decades, summarizing a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder Alice Munro is often able to say more in thirty pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in three hundred. She is a virtuoso of the elliptical and...the master of the contemporary short story."

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to McClelland and Stewart and Random House of Canada for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  I have never read any books in the short story genre.  It just wasn't a genre I was drawn to.  But when I had an opportunity to review Alice Munro's new collection of short stories I was excited for the chance to give it a try.  

Munro is the 2013 Nobel Prize winner and a cherished Canadian author.  She is known for writing about slices of her character's daily lives - their struggles and successes - and providing her readers with snapshots of life in small town Canada. 

Like I said, this was my first time reading short stories but unfortunately I can't say that I'm a fan of the genre.  I think a lot of that has to do with the feeling of being plunked down into someone's life with not a lot of time to understand them to the depth that I wanted to before the story was over.  I guess I just love a good build-up to a story, time to get to know the characters and get my bearings.  For example, in the story "Love of a Good Woman" the story jumped around a lot between the doctor, the three boys and the woman who nurse's the doctor's wife.  It felt a bit jumbled for all this to have happened in such a short story.

There were also some instances where the reader isn't handed a nice clean ending and is left to imagine how the story would end.  After finishing stories like these I felt like I was left hanging.  I wanted Munro to tell me what happened to her characters.  I wanted closure.  

There were definitely some complicated characters in her stories.  No 'cookie cutter cliches' here and some were hard to like or even get behind.  There is no doubt that Alice Munro can write unique characters and capture an authentic feeling of a small Canadian town and the relationships within it.  Unfortunately, I just don't think that the short story genre is for me.

My Rating: 3/5 stars


Anonymous said...

"After finishing stories like these I felt like I was left hanging. I wanted Munro to tell me what happened to her characters. I wanted closure." Clearly, as you note, you are not a reader of the short fiction genre for that feature is the very nature of a good short story, not a tid ending, not all thought out for the reader so they don't to do any work or use their own imagination - and, oh my, it's all the more sad in view of the fact that you note yourself to be library assistant. Sigh.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Library Assistants are not expected to read each and every genre (compared to many of my coworkers my range of genres is quite a bit larger). I am open to trying different genres and new authors. Some resonate with me and others, like short stories, don't. I realize short stories don't wrap things up nice and neatly, but that aspect doesn't appeal to me. The snarky tone of your comment wasn't appreciated.

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