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Alice Munro.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart , 1990.
273pp., cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 0-7710-6697-X. A Douglas Gibson Book. CIP.

Subject Heading:
Short stories, Canadian.


Reviewed by Sharon A. McLennan McCue.

Volume 18 Number 4
1990 July

It seems that Alice Munro's writing ability, like fine wine, improves with age. Her latest short story collection, Friend of My Youth, is like a mature burgundy one savours while exploring its melange of scents and flavour shadings. The ability to capture the essence of an era, a social situation or a personality in a few short words has always been Alice Munro's forte. In this collection she has carried that strength beyond craft to an art form.

Munro's mastery of the short story form may be seen in the simplest sentences, such as one finds in a story called "Five Points," about a woman who is having an affair. She drives to meet her lover on a back road, and this sentence closes the paragraph that describes her parking her car and walking across the road to her lover's car: "She wears high heels just for this walk, just for this moment of crossing the road with his eyes on her, the extra bit of pelvic movement and leg length they give her.

The usual venue of Alice Munro's stories is small-town Ontario from the 1950s to the present. Two of the stories in this book take a different tack with more than a little success. "Meneseteung" takes place in a small town in Ontario, but at the turn of the century. It concerns a spinster who writes poetry. The norms that controlled social intercourse and relationships at that time are intricately woven into personality types that are timeless.

Older secondary students might well appreciate some of the stories in this book, which is a necessity for all collections. Books by Alice Munro are becoming more and more problematic to review because, after a while, one runs out of superlatives. One can only hope for more of the same sort of problems in the future.

Sharon A. McLennan McCue, Ottawa, ON.
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