Oleg Kagan's Reviews > The View from Castle Rock

The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
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Jul 07, 12

bookshelves: poor-people, small-town, jones-coffee-book-club
Read from June 26 to July 06, 2012

I may be wrong, but I suspect that it's a fact that local and family history is only interesting to those related to the family or the place, or the off-chance researcher digging for facts. This was the problem for the first and last few stories in this collection. The multiple narrators describing what is ostensibly a fictionalized account of the Munro's ancestors' migration from Scotland to North America was often unfocused and confusing. The geographical and geologic descriptions of places and things were wasted on me -- I thought this would be the measure of the book until "The View from Castle Rock" threw in a notable climax among the descriptions.

Then it was as if the motor caught and the book pulled me into the family drama of "Working for a Living" (in which Munro tells of her parents early years of marriage), "Fathers" (in which three fathers (two small-town, and one city) are displayed), "Lying Under the Apple Tree" (maybe my favorite of the book, a romance taking place in the author's teenage years), "Hired Girl" (that describes her summer as a servant for a rich family), and "The Ticket" (a story that could alternatively be titled "Prelude to her First Marriage"). "Home" wasn't bad, but without the power of the aforementioned tales. So six out of eleven stories were worth reading, more than half, but not great.

My instinct, which is agreed upon by the Jones Coffee Book Club where we discussed View from Castle Rock this morning is that Munro's earlier works may be worth reading to get a full sense of her as a writer. Sooner or later, I'll probably end up doing just that.
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