Thursday, September 8, 2016

Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women

Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women is the closest we get to a novel in her oeuvre.  Her mainstay is her seemingly prosaic, but actually unsettling and jarring short stories; this collection is somewhere between the two.  

Many of the chapters could stand alone as short stories, but indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The title is true to the content: Munro follows the life cycle of her protagonist from girl to young woman.  Along the way, her character Del Jordan observes the lives of other girls and women in her corner of rural Canada with a critical and discerning but eye.

Along the way  are conflicts with boys and men.  This culminates in the disturbing, but finely written ‘baptism’ chapter between Del and her boyfriend.  Religion.  Violence. Male domination.  All there, a clearly written and apt charge against men. But Del is not trapped by this.  The end hints at greater horizons for Del, far beyond her small hometown, beyond its narrow norms and customs, a town named, aptly, Jubilee – the biblical year of release. 

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