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Dance of the Happy Shades

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,142 ratings  ·  279 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 (first published 1968)
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 ·  3,142 ratings  ·  279 reviews

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Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, John Cheever, Chekhov and Faulkner
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: s.penkevich

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
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spenk and Karen
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
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
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.
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, short-stories
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
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
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.
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
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 fucking stars my God. What a fantastic collection of stories.
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Jennifer Bakody
This collection, to me, is a stroke of humanitarian genius. I don't mean to say "humanitarian" in any benevolent sense, rather that the stories, characters and settings are so deeply human. Lifelike seems the wrong word. Lifelike minus the "like"? For it is life I think, through words - that we readers breathe, feel and know at the bottom of us. As someone who writes herself, this collection strikes me as such a huge achievement, I cannot even begin to imagine how one could accomplish it. I didn ...more
Alice Munro is one of my favorite authors. Over her entire career she has deftly written about the lives of ordinary girls and women - their experiences, their challenges, their dreams. She is so worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature, which she won in 2013.

This is Munro's first published book, and like most of the others, it is a book of short stories. It is just as beautifully written as her later ones, and shows her early power of storytelling. In this volume, which won the Canadian Governo
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
She is truly astounding. There wasn't a dud in here and many times I would have to reread sentences because they packed so much insight into human behavior into one line that you can barely absorb it. Each of her stories feels like it contains every bit as much as other great authors fit into 500 page books. She doesn't waste a word.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is Alice Munro’s first collection written about 50 years ago. As one reviewer points out, it came out in 1968 and “may at first glance appear to be out of step with its time. After all, this was the year of the May events in Paris, student uprisings across Europe, massive anti-Vietnam war protests on both sides of the Atlantic. In music, Jimi Hendrix spent months reworking Bob Dylan’s bleakly minimalist All Along the Watchtower into his stunning, apocalyptic version of the end of things, an ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Nobel Prize (2013) in Literature recognized Alice Munro for her mastery of the “contemporary short story”. This book is an excellent example of her craft.

“So my father drives and my brother watches the road for rabbits and I feel my father’s life flowing back from our car in the last of the afternoon, darkening and turning strange, like a landscape that has an enchantment on it, making it kindly, ordinary and familiar while you are looking at it, but changing it, once your back is turned, in
Allan MacDonell
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Subtlety is one of short-story master Alice Munro’s many strengths, and has been for decades. The Nobel Prize-winner’s delicate, precise complexity was basically sublime already in the early work gathered in Dance of the Shades, but—spoiler alert—a stickler for trigger warnings might want this collection tagged for fatally scalded baby and domestic horses shot and fed to captive foxes.
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Alice Munro's first collection of stories, originally published in 1968. There are 15 short stories, some I liked more than others. She writes very well, very descriptively, but I just didn’t get into some of the stories. The settings are invariably around the small towns around Lake Huron in Southern Ontario, too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer. Towns riven with small-town gossip and genteel respectability, a coded, rigid place, with expectations about what is proper for a wom ...more
Beautiful, perfectly crafted, wonderful stories. The best descriptions of life in the continental north that I have ever read. Munro is a sharp, keen observer and has a most powerful understanding of how people think and feel, and she is able to find the most appropriate, fitting words and phrases to express these things of any writer I know. I have ordered three more volumes of her collections, as I find them very calming and wonderful.

Here is Munro in a story about new property owners in a de
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The little I’ve read of Munro shows a steady attentiveness to the particular, as opposed to the general, nature of the studied life. While a good deal of her later fiction makes thematic and consistent her concentration on the clarified lives of older women, this collection tends to recall and collect stories of children and childhood for the sake of their own peculiar awakenings, even where these are opened before and examined in a harshly retrospective gaze.

Stories like The Shining Houses and
From "Boys and Girls": "I no longer felt safe. It seemed that in the minds of the people around me there was a steady undercurrent of thought, not to be deflected, on this one subject. 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 ...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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