Alice Munro – Runaway

Posted on | February 16, 2010 | 26 Comments

As some of you may already know, I’m not a big fan of short stories. So, when I started this collection, I was almost prepared to be underwhelmed and dissatisfied. Yet, I had heard wonderful things about Munro, and figured I really should give at least one collection a try. Worst case, I’ll shelve it mid-way.

Boy, it’s time to eat my words, for I absolutely loved this collection. My usual complaints about plot depth and shallow characterisations fall short, simply because of Munro’s writing style. She keeps it short, succinct, simple, and portrays real people at particular moments in time – those moments in time when they’re at their weakest, most vulnerable, or most reflective. The history is irrelevant. The future still unseen.

She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.

There are eight stories in the collection, each with a one word title. While I could delve into what each story is about, I shall refrain from doing so. It’s pointless summarising eight different short stories, simply because I don’t think I’ll be able to do any justice to them. And then of course, there’s the threat of a spoiler….

I will say this though, the first (and title) story of the collection didn’t really do it for me, but the subsequent stories were wonderful. Three of them featured the same protagonist at different stages of her life – as an academic, a young mother, and then her return to academia, and those three stories stood out, in my opinion. Both, Trespasses and Tricks were wonderful, and there was something incredibly refreshing about them.

Apologies for the short review, and lack of detail, but I think it’s something you have to pick up on your own to enjoy. There’s no hero. No villain. No victim. It’s just regular people. Another place, another time, and it could just as easily be you or me.

As I’m re-thinking my stance on short-stories, do you have any to recommend? Have you read anything by Munro? Would you endorse other collections by her?


26 Responses to “Alice Munro – Runaway”

  1. silverseason
    February 16th, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    Yes! I never been disappointed by a Munro book. Try Hateship, etc. – see my post

  2. Sarah
    February 16th, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    A short review, but exactly what I wanted to hear. Thank you! I can’t justify buying this book right now, but it can only be a matter of time.

    Guy de Maupassant does a mean short story, Hermann Melville shorts are weird, (but a darn sight easier than Moby Dick!) and I love Edgar Allen Poe.

  3. Sarah
    February 17th, 2010 @ 4:26 am

    I love short stories, especially those by Alice Munro. I’d reccomend all her books, but particuarly Dance of the happy shades, the Friendship etc one and Too much happiness.

    As for other short stories, I like Gogol, Sheridan Le Fanu, Henry James, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, A S Byatt, Cate Kennedy, David Malouf and many more!

  4. Michelle
    February 17th, 2010 @ 4:51 am

    I’ve heard much about Alice Munro, but haven’t had the chance to try her out yet. Glad you liked it. So maybe this means it’s about time I tried her out too.

    I haven’t been doing many short stories, but I’m trying to rectify that this year. Your other readers may have suggestions that I would be able to take up too. =)

  5. bookssnob
    February 17th, 2010 @ 11:43 am

    My first and only Munro was The View from Castle Rock and I LOVED it. Her stories are amazing and I can’t even explain why…they just blew me away. I’d love to read more of her work.

    Katherine Mansfield is the Queen of short story writing, and Richard Yates’ short stories as well as Daphne Du Maurier’s are also among my favourites.

  6. Laura
    February 17th, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    I have Runaway sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read. I enjoyed your review, which has bumped this book a bit higher in the queue. One of my favorite short story authors is Jhumpa Lahiri. Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize and is absolutely fantastic … and I liked her subsequent collection,Unaccustomed Earth, just as much.

  7. kiss a cloud
    February 17th, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

    What you said here: “It’s just regular people. Another place, another time, and it could just as easily be you or me.” is exactly why I love Munro.

    I’d definitely recommend Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage, which I wrote about on the blog last year. I want to read all her collections slowly. She seems very consistent.

    Another short story writer I love is Grace Paley, though very different in style from Munro.

  8. Elena
    February 17th, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    Haven’t actually read Alice Munro yet but I’m glad you’ve found a short-story collection that has changed your opinion of them.
    “The history is irrelevant. The future still unseen.” <- This is why I love reading short stories ^_^

    I'd recommend No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, the stories are a little quirky, as is her style, but not without heart. Also, I have a giant Jeeves Omnibus by P.G. Wodehouse….purely about Bertie Wooster and his clever man-servant. Not something to sit and read in one go but definitely good for a quick read in between books.

  9. Bellezza
    February 18th, 2010 @ 12:35 am

    I’m glad to hear what you thought of these, as I’m not normally a short story fan myself. I want to immerse myself more in that genre, as well as poetry'; they’re two areas which are sorely lacking in my background. Or, shall we say, typical choice of what to read.

  10. JoAnn
    February 18th, 2010 @ 1:54 am

    So glad to hear this was a winner! I’ve been enjoying so many short stories lately, but my favorite contemporary short story writers are T.C. Boyle and Jhumpa Lahiri.

  11. Pam
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:00 am

    See Cookie? Short stories aren’t all bad… Now it’s time for Olive Kitteridge – you can’t go too wrong with Pulitzer Prize winning short stories (which make up an incredible book!)

  12. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations. I haven’t read anything by the mentioned authors but hopefully, that will change soon. Like you, I cannot really justify buying new books at the moment, and am half-contemplating a self-imposed book buying ban.

  13. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    Thanks. I did read Angela Carter’s Fireworks last year, and didn’t think the world of it, which was slightly disappointing as I adored The Magic Toyshop. People have recommended The Bloody Chamber since, and I’ll give that a go soon.

    Really look forward to reading more Munros, and don’t really know where to start, so thanks for the suggestions.

  14. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

    thanks, will do.

    After reading this, I find it hard to imagine ever being disappointed by her.

  15. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

    I think you should (read Munro). I think I’m getting a little overwhelmed by the suggestions…. there’s way toooooo many!!!

  16. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    I love the cover of Castle Rock, so that’s an easy one to put on my wishlist.

    I do love Du Maurier, so maybe I should give her short stories a try. Believe it or not, I’ve not read anything by Richard Yates (not even the mandatory Revolutionary Road), but should change that in the next couple of months.

  17. uncertainprinciples
    February 18th, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

    I hope you take it off your shelf quick :)

    I have The Namesake on my unread shelf at the moment, and really want to push it up the list. Interpreter of Maladies is on my TBR as well – although, believe it or not, I didn’t know it was a collection of short stories till right now. thanks for the suggestion :)

  18. Nymeth
    February 18th, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    This sounds beautiful! I’ve read some of Munro’s short stories in anthologies and was also very impressed. Been meaning to pick up one of her books for ages, so thank you for the reminder.

  19. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    I’m going to try reading another one of her collections, and if I get on even half as well, I’ll join you in reading all her works slowly!

    I’ve never heard of Grace Paley to be honest. Will look her up – thanks!

  20. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

    Some of the short stories I’ve read seem to try and pack in an entire novel in 10 pages, which is one of the main reasons why I’m not a big fan. Munro, however, doesn’t seem to do that at all.

    Thanks for the Miranda July recommendation – surprise! surprise! I haven’t heard of her yet. I do like PG Wodehouse though, so that’s a good call :)

  21. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

    I know what you mean – I’m pretty much the same. I do love poems, but, I don’t think I could read an anthology like I can a book! Do you have anything planned on the short story/poetry front?

  22. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

    That’s the second call for Jhumpa Lahiri! I really should check her out – and soon!

  23. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

    I withdraw my previous remarks, Pam!! And I’ll read Olive Kitteridge soon, I promise! Right after Persepolis….. you’re right about the Pulitzer being safe :)))

  24. anothercookiecrumbles
    February 18th, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

    Hope you get on with a book as well as you have with individual stories. I’ll be looking out for your thoughts on them :)

  25. Sasha
    February 22nd, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    Munro’s one of my favorite writers–and this collection’s the most-loved book of hers in myshelves. I admit that I felt a little spurt of glee knowing that she’s helping you rethink your stance on short stories. I am a hopeless fan and lover of them, and always feel a dorky kind of pain whenever someone says they don’t like short fiction, hahaha. [Blogged about that a few weeks ago here, if you’re so inclined.]

    Other short story writers I’ve long admired are Raymond Carver, Richard Yates, Ann Beattie, Joan Silber and Lorrie Moore. My new discoveries would have to be Grace Paley and Miranda July (and she is just mindblowingly fantastic, methinks).

    I have to stop now, haha. Happy week ahead!

  26. Alice Munro – Too Much Happiness : another cookie crumbles
    August 14th, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

    […] tentatively, not really expecting to enjoy it, but hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Munro’s Runaway, for example, was […]

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