Runaway by Alice Munro, 2004

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.)

22 thoughts on “Runaway by Alice Munro, 2004

  1. I have so many friends who love Munro and yet somehow she has never crept into my reading schedule. I’ve just checked and I don’t even have any of her work on my tbr pile. Is this the place to start?

  2. Hi Ann, yes this is a good place to start. But then I’d also suggest Dance of the happy shades or Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage as particular standouts.

    Whispering gums, it is always a case of so many books, so little time, isn’t it? I do find Munro a delightful (and reliable)writer, so much so that since reading Dance of the happy shades last year I’ve read a further seven of her books. And I noticed at Abbey’s the other day that her latest collection Too much happiness is out in hardback- I am sorely tempted!

  3. I have never heard anyone mention Alice Munro without a great deal of enthusiasm. I have her mentally bracketed with Lorrie Moore, mainly because she is another writer I haven’t read, about whom people enthuse, and they both write short stories. I wondered if you like Lorrie Moore’s writing also?

    Any pointers on where to start with (either!) author would be appreciated.

  4. Hi Sarah, yes like Moore Munro does seem to inspire enthusiasm!

    I haven’t read any Moore yet, an omission I must rectify some day. Her new novel Gate at the stairs sounds very interesting so I might start there. As per my comment above, I’d highly recommend Dance of the happy shades, Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage and of course Runaway.

  5. I really enjoyed the Munroe book I read and do possess a copy of Runaway – I should dig it out and shift it up the pile! She is an effortlessly stylish writer.

  6. I have several Munro books waiting to be read. I know I will love her, but for some reason haven’t started them yet. This was a good reminder to crack one open! Lorrie Moore is incredible; she at least I can claim to have read. Her collection Birds of America is very good.

  7. Hi Estelle, I certainly hope you do love Munro when you read her. Thanks for the Moore reccomendation, I will look out for it.

  8. I have only read one collection of her stories – The View from Castle Rock – for a reading group. I had never heard of her before and my goodness was I blown away. I would love to read more of her work and Runaway sounds wonderful.

  9. I really loved this book. I was amazed at the way Munro could pack so much richness into relatively short pieces (compared to novels or novellas at least). She captured such complicated lives so well.

  10. I definitely want to read some Munro and this one sounds good. Always interested in reading about other people’s unhappy or unsatisfactory lives when the writing is as good as Munro’s clearly is.

  11. I’ll keep this book in mind. I have Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage on my shelf, but the only story I have read from it is The Bear Came Over the Mountain, which I read after watching the terribly sad movie Away From Her.

  12. Dorothy, I was similarly amazed when I first read Munro and am glad to hear you enjoyed Runaway.

    Pete, yes unhappy and unsatisfactory lives are interesting to read about, if only to know we’re not alone!

    Hi Charley, I enjoyed that book earlier this year and would encourage you to give it a try. I have seen and was very impressed by Away from her- I only started reading Munro after I saw it. If Sarah Polley makes aother film I will be first in line.

  13. You know, I’ve never read anything by Munro, but have long heard that she is an excellent writer. I am going to check out this book and maybe give it a try. Excellent review, your passion for both the author and the book are very clear to discern.

  14. I’ve got her collection ‘The View from Castle Rock’ and have only read that particular story, but thought it was brilliant. She has a real gift of making the mundane seem extraordinary. Thanks for the review – must get Runaway now, obviously!

  15. What a great post! I know this author’s name but can’t think if I’ve read any books. I shall go look at a list of her works and READ one. Thank you.

  16. I’ve also read her novel, Lives of Girls and Women, which I thought was absolutely terrific. I don’t have anything by her on my TBR right now, but I may go put Runaway on my list. Thanks for this.

  17. Hi Litlove. I stopped blogging because my job took over my life- having changed jobs, I’m back again 🙂

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