Book review: Lying Under the Apple Tree – New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

“She was thinking not just of the look of the bike but of the fact that I was thirteen and in my first year at high school, and that this was a watershed year as far as girls riding bikes to school was concerned”  – Alice Munro, Lying Under the Apple Tree

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Genre: multi-genre short stories

Publisher: Chatto and Windus, 2011

Author Fact: Canadian Alice Munro is one of the world’s best short story writers. She has won many awards for her work, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Readers, however, may not know that she also ran a bookshop in the 1950s.

The stories: This is a selection of Alice Munro’s short stories that were published in various collections from 1998 to 2009. It’s a perfect introduction for new readers as the stories chosen cover a wide range of genres. As Munro was born in 1931, her stories are set across various decades. She also includes historical fiction with her story ‘The View from Castle Rock’, which describes a family emigrating from Scotland to Canada in 1818. Her themes are equally broad – motherhood, coming-of-age, class differences, family dynamics and violent crime to name a few.

Why read it?

Munro’s stories have an anecdotal feel to them. There’s something about the rhythm of her sentences and her intimate point of view that makes me feel like someone is sitting down beside me, recounting their life story.

At first glance, these are simple, everyday tales, but the characters and their interactions make the stories extraordinary. After some, I feel like I’ve read a whole novel as Munro manages to cover years of a character’s life without appearing to skimp on detail or overload the reader.

Her work is an excellent case study on how to write different points of view. In ‘My Mother’s Dream’, she writes convincingly from the perspective of a six-week-old baby who refuses to stop crying. The way Munro jumps back and forth in time without confusing the reader is particularly skilful. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in writing short stories.

 

 

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