This is a new year’s gift from a friend, and I actually started reading it in the small hours of new year’s day, to top off my festive mood. Some of the stories (or part of them) are set in the 1940s, with young men joining the army and families struggling financially due to the war. The blurb says the book shows “how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be.” In the first half, I got a sense that those went on amorous adventures eventually seemed to be punished. And there were characters with recurrent occupations, like doctors and ministers. When reading about the harelipped boy in “Pride,” I remembered the story of the man with a purple birthmark covering half of his face in Too Much Happiness. The last four stories, which make up the “Finale” section of the book, are (semi-)autobiographical and therefore carry parallels with The View from Castle Rock.
The ones I liked the least were “Haven” and “Night,” and my favourites were “Gravel” and “Train.” I found myself thinking about what happened in “Gravel” after I moved on to the other stories. I think “Train” was the longest story – it felt like a novel.
As always, I am in awe of Alice Munro’s subtlety:
“Jackson had his mouth open probably to say the same, but at that moment his eyes met the eyes of Ileane Bishop and a certain piece of knowledge passed between them” (209).
And her wit:
“She had a rule also that if she stepped off a curb on the wrong foot the whole day would go bad for her, and so they would have to go back and do it again. Her rules enthralled him.
To tell the truth, I was privately un-enthralled when told this. I had thought how men are charmed by stubborn quirks if the girl is good-looking enough. Of course that has gone out of fashion. At least I hope it has. All that delight in the infantile female brain (244).”
This second part reminded me of a high school classmate who was trying very hard to be charming in her opinionated outbursts. “I hate it!” she would declare over trivial matters every other day. She went to become a teacher, in our hometown. I wonder what is it that she hates nowadays.
I am now starting with Hüseyin Kıran’s Dağ Yolunda Karanlık Birikiyor because I really like the title (“Darkness Gathers on the Mountain Path”) and the publisher keeps tweeting ads and reviews so I want to see for myself if it’s worth all the hype 😉