Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

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Critical Context (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Alice Munro is one of the most celebrated Canadian writers of the twentieth century and, probably, one of the best living women prose writers in North America. Her short-story collections have won for her numerous literary awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Canadian Fiction Writers in 1969 and 1978, and the Canada-Australia Literary Prize in 1977.

Munro has been criticized, however, for the limited range of her themes and characters: Most of her characters are young women passing through the stages of life or older women looking back on that experience. The initiation theme predominates in most of her stories, much as it does in Sherwood Anderson’s tales of young men at the turn of the century.

Nevertheless, her work has been compared favorably with that of such regional writers as Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, who wrote about the American South in much the way Munro has written of southwestern Ontario. This comparison is even more appropriate when one considers that Munro’s forte is the short story, wherein her sharply focused characters and her eye for the details of ordinary life serve her narrative style forcefully.