Open Secrets (Magill Book Reviews)
In these eight stories, Canadian author Alice Munro revisits the physical and emotional landscapes that have become closely identified with her work. Nearly all of these stories take place in southeastern Ontario, near Lake Huron. Her characters are ordinary people with uncertain lives, connected by a common setting.
The real tour de force of this collection is “The Albanian Virgin,” which spans some forty years and only briefly involves Ontario. The chief figure is Canadian-born Charlotte, who is kidnapped in the 1920’s by a primitive Albanian tribe, the Ghegs, but returns to tell her story. A parallel figure is Claire, owner of a bookstore in 1960’s Victoria, British Colombia. The storyline exists on three levels—Charlotte’s life as a captive of the Ghegs, Charlotte’s story told years later to Claire in Victoria, and Claire’s own confused tale of marital unhappiness and escape.
In other selections, a self-reliant farm woman is convinced by her friends to submit to a traditional marriage, although she is obviously reluctant. Ironically, she flourishes, but a flirtatious friend, who has eagerly married in hope of “a real life,” withers in her joyless union. Another tale describes survival in the nineteenth century Canadian bush, where brutality festers beneath the surface of daily life. The final story examines child abuse, the deception of appearances, and violence that feeds upon itself.
Most of these stories...
(The entire section is 337 words.)
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Open Secrets (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In her eighth book, Canadian author Alice Munro revisits the physical and emotional landscapes that have become closely identified with her work. Nearly all these stories take place in southeastern Ontario, in or near the small town of Carstairs or its larger neighbor Walley, a port on Lake Huron. Her characters are ordinary people with uncertain lives, their stories connected by a common setting and spanning a period from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century.
Munro’s early work consists primarily of first-person, coming-of-age stories, well crafted and powerful. In later work she has switched to a more traditional omniscient voice, except for the multiple point of view found here in “A Wilderness Station,” which is written in epistolary form. Her writing has become denser, layered, employing more sophisticated techniques. Events frequently appear out of chronological order as Munro shifts seamlessly between past and present. She has indicated that such shifts are deliberate: “I want to write the story that will zero in and give you intense, but not connected, moments of experience. I guess that’s the way I see life.”
The real tour de force of this collection is “The Albanian Virgin,” a story that covers some forty years and only briefly involves Ontario, alternating mostly between Albania and British Columbia. The chief figure is Canadian-born Charlotte, who is kidnapped in the 1920’s by a primitive Albanian...
(The entire section is 1758 words.)