Thursday, May 24, 2012

Books: Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? is a book of related short stories by Alice Munro, published in 1978. That same year it won the Governor General's Award for English Fiction.

Alice Munro has truly mastered the art of writing a short story. The narrative is so natural and honest that is seems effortless, but anyone who ever tried to write a short story will know what a challenge it is to write a good one - let alone craft such masterpieces as does Munro .

This book is a collection of 10 short stories, each one tightly woven and superbly written. Yet while each could stand alone, they are all about the same person - a woman named Rose.

Rose grew up in a difficult household, surrounded by poverty. She was beaten by her father and step-mother and in school she "learned how to manage in the big fights that tore up the school two or three times a year." As she gets older and tries to build a future for herself, she still struggles finding her place in a world that can be harsh and unforgiving.

Rose is not one of those protagonists that I identify with or am inspired by. But through Munro's gifted writing, she does become very real - and like people who are real, she possesses strengths and faults. Her choices are not mine, but I am able to understand why she makes them.

Interesting that I should have happened upon this book after reading Larry's Party, for that was also a work of fiction arranged as a collection of short stories. Both books offer the reader glimpses into the central character's life. The authors do not attempt to construct a chronological breakdown of every significant event - and yet they create vivid and memorable characters with their of revealing the unique essence of an individual.

1 comment:

  1. I've been gradually reading and re-reading my way through her stories chronologically, and just finished this collection recently. The amount of material covered between "Royal Beatings" and the title story is remarkable, isn't it? Now I've started The Moons of Jupiter, which I thought I'd read before, but so far it doesn't feel familiar. Still the consistent quality however.

    BTW, have enjoyed browsing your site, and have subscribed to see what you read next!