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Dance of the Happy Shades

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,596 ratings  ·  340 reviews
Alice Munro's territory is the farms and semi-rural towns of south-western Ontario. In these dazzling stories she deals with the self-discovery of adolescence, the joys and pains of love and the despair and guilt of those caught in a narrow existence. And in sensitively exploring the lives of ordinary men and women, she makes us aware of the universal nature of their fears ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 2nd 2000 by Vintage
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“The word girl had formerly seemed to me innocent and unburdened, like the word child; now it appeared that it was no such thing. A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become. It was a definition, always touched with emphasis, with reproach and disappointment. Also it was a joke on me.
. . .
My grandmother came to stay with us for a few weeks and I heard other things. ‘Girls don't slam doors like that.’ ‘Girls keep their knees together when they sit down.’

Intro (this piece inspired the title story):

Does anyone remember Steve’s review of Lydia Davis’s “Collected Stories” when he said “Lydia Davis shits out tiny nuggets of pure golden prose and says 'oh, this old thing’'?”I didn’t exactly agree with him on the Lydia Davis front, but I would love to steal that quote and use it in reference to Alice Munro.

Alice Munro is a master story teller. No, she didn’t twist my brain into knots and exasperate me. No, she
Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

I really liked this book.

I liked it a LOT.

Ok… I loved it!

I’ve been meaning to read work by Alice Munro for a while so when I found a second hand copy of Dance of the Happy Shades for a few dollars, I picked it up.

This book is a Governor General’s Award winning collection of short stories.

The following quote by Hugh Garner in the forward to this book, pretty much, in my opinion, describes the quality and essence of Ms. Munro’s writing.

“The second-rate writ
Raul Bimenyimana
Jan 24, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like reading and re-reading the first books of the writers I love. They have a certain charm, and an indication of the origins from which their later works flow. They also show the early point of recurring themes, revisited places, and an overall sense of development achieved when compared to the works that followed.

All of these short stories are set in small towns which resemble Munro's hometown of Wingham, Ontario. It was clear while reading these stories that a lot of the material is drawn
Neal Adolph
Many words far better than the ones which I can put together into a sentence have been said about Alice Munro’s extraordinary talent. Many of those words have been directed at this book, her first collection of stories, and how remarkable it is for being a first collection of stories. Having read it one wonders why there haven’t been more words devoted to it or its author, why she, unfortunately, remains hidden away from most readers for no reason other than her chosen form. Alice Munro is a won ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, canada
Like the children in fairy stories who have seen their parents make pacts with terrifying strangers, who have discovered that our fears are based on nothing but the truth, but who come back fresh from marvellous escapes and take up their knives and forks, with humility and good manners, prepared to live happily ever after-like them, dazed and powerful with secrets, I never said a word. (Images)

Thankfully Munro stores up those childhood secrets and works them with a strange alchemy into gold. Thi
excellent writing and usually with interesting plots and eventual outcomes. The main downside for me is that I was never able to really identify with any of the different characters or feel something for them. I felt a little bit remote.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Find all my book reviews, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog:

This is the second collection of short stories by Alice Munro I’ve read. The first, Runaway, I described as ‘bleak’. But having read this collection, which was actually the first she ever published, I think I was too harsh. Instead, I think I should have said ‘unflinching in her observation’. I’m going to pick out three stories that I think il
Cleaning up: my goodness, I wrote this in 2014 and didn't get around to publishing it. 

Sociologically speaking, Munro's worth her weight in gold. Her stories preserve aspects of social history - mores, language, ways of living, the looks, the smells, the landscape - in a form that goes well beyond what is possible in documented sources. Nor does she need to introduce the drama necessary in movies. She can make things 3D without glasses. Layers of small vignettes that add up to a whole world - he
Konstantin R.
[rating = A-]
One of my: Best Books of the Year (for 2017)
Alice Munro is the best short story writer because she can take the most basic of lives and expose the subtle and underlying factors of it, making it interesting and at once realistic (very much like Anne Tyler at her best). I love how Munro hints at or furthers another story in the collection, yet at the same time keeping it individual and independent. She surprises you with the delicacy and veracity of her psychology and human behavior;
Orla Hegarty
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Her first collection of short stories! Divine.
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I haven't been able to focus at all since isolation started, but I read this in 24 hours. ...more
Jul 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
I think "The Office" by Alice Munro (1968) should have been required reading at the start of the pandemic.

"The solution to my life occurred to me one evening while I was ironing a shirt. It was simple but audacious. I went into the living room where my husband was watching television and I said, 'I think I ought to have an office'.
It sounded fantastic, even to me. What do I want an office for? I have a house; it is pleasant and roomy and has a view of the sea; it provides appropriate places for
I chose this book for an independent reading project in my high school fiction class. My teacher suggested Munro because he though I could identify with her particular writing style. This collection kept me enraptured with plot, characters, and the numerous nuggets of unexpected beauty dispersed throughout. Alice Munro is a brilliant writer, a fact I believe can be affirmed by the end of the titular story, Dance of the Happy Shades. Her stories and the characters within them have the uncanny abi ...more
George K. Ilsley
The old school edition I read does not show up here. Alice Munro's first collection, surprisingly good — but why am I surprised? Alice Munro won a GG (prestigious Canadian award) with her very first book. ...more
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 fucking stars my God. What a fantastic collection of stories.
Anastasia Sijabat
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Munro's first book one and a half years ago and I thought she was the best short story writer I've ever encountered. 'Dance of the Happy Shades' is her fourth book I've read, and I stood corrected.

One sign of a great writer is if you can literally read anything written by her and think it's awesome. It is what I feel with Munro. Her works are humble. Different from other (usually male) writers with grandiose vocabularies and exhibitionist tendencies, Munro chose to deliver in colloquial w
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
This kinda left me cold, which surprised me! I like Alice Munro, and I like what she's trying to do in her stories, but there was only one that got me on an emotional level, and for the rest, I felt like I could appreciate the technical mastery of the form, but that's all. It ended up being a bit of a slog.

My favourite story was about a girl in grade 9 attending her first high school dance. She's been feeling awkward since she started, is worried that her only friend isn't really her friend, and
Darcy McLaughlin
I felt a certain shame as a Canadian reader having never read any of Alice Munro's stories. I don't know how I made it this far without it, but the Canadian Lit classes I took in university decided to try to kill off any affection I had for our native writers through sheer boredom (I'm looking at you Sinclair Ross). Fortunately there's work like "Dance of the Happy Shades", a book that by all means should be boring but is captivating due to Munro's incredible ability to transform the mundane Can ...more
Yunong Bai
Jun 03, 2022 rated it really liked it
Many touching and resilient characters in this short story collection. There’s also always a subtle sad turn - the nature-loving girl gradually losing her ambition resisting the world’s biased view on girls and “being girlish”, the female writer giving in to the societal expectation of being a stay at home mom, the peddler father struggling with his livelihood, the thwarted adolescent love failing to bloom for the second time in adulthood… This collection makes me feel the weight of reality, but ...more
Jun 18, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: next, 2021
The stories in this collection are so subtle and mundane but deeply moving and really make you think about the small moments of revelation that we experience in everyday life. I especially enjoyed the last few stories that deal with illness, disability, old age and how this affects the family (I couldn’t stop thinking about “The Peace of Utrecht” for days). Munro has a knack for writing super interesting, complex and challenging female characters at every stage of life.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice Munro has written many collections of short stories, and her writing has fascinated me for years. This collection doesn't disappoint, and I'd recommend it for those of you who enjoy short stories that, although understated, evoke emotions in the reader and make you think. Wonderful stories! ...more
tortoise dreams
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first story collection by the Canadian future Nobel laureate.

Book Review: Dance of the Happy Shades seems fresh and new, many of the stories told from the perspective of children moving from innocence to experience, learning about life as things are, and not yet to the point in Alice Munro's later, darker stories where things are not always as they should be. Although the stories are set in rural Canada, she writes of universal experiences, captures those moments of humanity that afflict us
Walter Rafael Villanueva
Not among her best collections, although we can forgive the incomparable Alice Munro since this book was her first. "The Office," "The Peace of Utrecht," and "Dance of the Happy Shades" are some of the most notable stories in this text, at least to me. ...more
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I fell hopelessly in love with Alice Munro!

I find it hard to review short stories because they are some you love and adore that you can read over and over again but also some you dislike. (Not in this case though!)
Our subject in the English lesson this year was Canada. We talked about environmental problems, multiculturalism and even read a few examples of Canadian "literature". Which my teacher picked out really, really bad I think and my opinion on this strengthened after I read this short sto
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Alice Munro lures you into the seasonal rhythms of pastoral settings with seamless ease. She can lead you down bucolic winter paths or walk you down glaring, hot, and dusty summer streets. Then she turns around and drops a devastatingly hilarious observation on the reader like turning over an ace in a card game. The characters are effortless complex, human, and recognizable. Her endings burst with revelations and epiphanies that are derived from a long collection of illuminating moments, where a ...more
May 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Several of these stories were amazing. The last two, which I read early on, "The Peace of Utrecht" and "The Dance of the Happy Shades" were so subtle and strange in a very realistic, possible way. I loved them. I don't think I've ever really learned to be satisfied with short stories, or maybe I haven't learned how to read them. I'm always left wanting more, left wanting a novel. A short story can be beautifully crafted and the characters and their lives may be vividly brought to life within twe ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started with Munro from her debut after I read the Love of a good woman and a few scattered later stories so: The Dance of the Happy Shades, Munro...her first book. The dance in time is less, the stories have fewer lenses and mirrors that the events are refracted from, but they are still wonderful and heart-stopping; in this book she has little half-sentences; three word clauses that break my heart and stand as the most powerful things I've read in the past while but when taken out of context ...more
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is my first expierence of Alice Munro - an author I had heard good things of previously. These stories are beautifully written. Each story is satisfying, with characters you can't help but care about. This is something I don't always find with short stories, that the reader is able to step into the world the author is writing about within just a few pages. However each of these stories is set in the same sort of community, and so it becomes easy to step into the lives of these rural peoples ...more
George K. Ilsley
Have read and re-read some of these stories. Feels like historical fiction in that it takes us to a time where houses do not have electricity. Munro's sentence structures can be idiosyncratic, yet as a writer she is always rewarding. This collection (her first) won a GG (prestigious Canadian literary award); yet her subsequent work is even better. ...more
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Alice Ann Munro, née Laidlaw, is a Canadian short-story writer who is widely considered one of the world's premier fiction writers. Munro is a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction. Her stories focus on human relationships looked at through the lens of daily life. She has thus been referred to as "the Canadian Chekhov."

She is the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Liter

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