Notes on Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

  1. In nearly every story, there's a contrast between the behavior and expectations of country people and those who have made it to Toronto or Vancouver.
  2. All of the stories share Munro's characteristic style, looping gracefully from the present to the past, interpolating vignettes that seem extraneous and bringing the strands together in a deceptively gentle windup whose impact takes the breath away. Munro has few peers in her understanding of the bargains women make with life and the measureless price they pay.
  3. The women in the other stories generally cannot control their fate.
  4. How do relationships happen? Are they really as arbitrary as this child’s game would indicate? Or are they fated? And how do our chosen relationships with friends and lovers stack up against the ones we do not choose, with the family we’re born into and the children we bear?
  5. The sombre, beautiful tinge of mortality hangs over all these tales.
  6. Munro’s  themes: the subtle vicissitudes of class warfare in southern Ontario, the handmaiden role of young wives in the 1950s (“young husbands were stern in those days”), the miraculous change that throwing one new person into the mix can have on the settled, the thrills of secrecy, the dead weight of family responsibilities.
  7. The familiarity of her themes and settings in no way detracts from the small narrative brilliance of each individual story; if anything, it adds richness and depth to our appreciation of an ever-expanding canvas.
  8. Love deceives partly because it requires constancy, in both senses of the word, to an individual and a state of mind. It’s no accident that Munro prefers short stories to novels.
  9. That said, her book reads as a book, which is all the more remarkable given the variety of narrators, and narrative styles, it employs.
  10. "More than with other writers," Close said, "with Alice, there's a huge amount between the lines." At the heart of all great naturalism is mystery, an emotional sum greater than its technical parts.
  11. The title story of Hateship, Friendship contains more range, drama, and tonal echoes than most contemporary novels.
  12. Alice Munro's stories are dense with character and complication; sometimes they span 30 years or more. They’re like compressed novels, three-course meals rather than the unsatisfying canapes most short stories resemble.

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