Alice Munro is a firm favourite of mine, and in Runaway her strengths as a writer are once again apparent. The stories focus on women trying to escape unhappy or at least unsatisfactory lives and perhaps unfortunately invoke recognition and reflection in me as a reader.
Munro has a remarkable abilty to make the apparently mundane suprisingly dramatic and full of interest and insight, capturing what seems to be the essential truth about a life in rarely more than fifty pages.
It is difficult to avoid a bare bones synposis of each story sounding dull (although as one character observes to another in the story Powers “I am not sure I like the word ‘prosaic’. I don’t know if this is any more a prosaic place than anywhere else and what do you expect it to be- poetic?”) and I also hesitate to ruin the pleasure of discovering the often unexpected destination of each. Suffice it to say then that I found each story in this collection superb and will not leave it long before reading more Munro.
(as a postscript, my Vintage edition of this contains an introduction by Jonathan Franzen which may persuade anyone who hasn’t yet read Munro to change that. It begins “Alice Munro has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America, but outside of Canada, where her books are No. 1 best sellers, she has never had a large readership. At the risk of sounding like a pleader on behalf of yet another underappreciated writer — and maybe you’ve learned to recognize and evade these pleas? The same way you’ve learned not to open bulk mail from certain charities? Please give generously to Dawn Powell? Your contribution of just 15 minutes a week can help assure Joseph Roth of his rightful place in the modern canon? — I want to circle around Munro’s latest marvel of a book, ”Runaway,” by taking some guesses at why her excellence so dismayingly exceeds her fame.” and can be read online here.)