The Love of a Good Woman
Ms. Hen bought this book because she knows that Alice Munro is a great writer, and she should read more of her. Ms. Hen doesn’t love short stories as much as novels, because she likes to sink her teeth into a novel and become entrenched in it, but these stories are different. Ms. Hen was able to live in the short stories; each was its own complete world, and Ms. Hen became immersed.
These stories are all about women in Canada, and they take place in a time past, mostly in the Fifties and Sixties, when life was completely different from the way it is now. Women were not treated with much respect, and were expected to live a certain way, and if they did not live like that, they were judged and maligned. All of these stories are about women who have taken a bad turn.
These stories are not light-hearted. They remind Ms. Hen of Flannery O’Connor’s writing. There is murder in “The Love of a Good Woman,” adultery in “The Children Stay,” spouse swapping in “Jakarta,” and a graphic description of abortion in “Before the Change.” A scene in “Save the Reaper,” seems to be completely inspired by O’Connor, in which a grandmother takes her two grandchildren on a ride, and comes across a house of debauchery, and ends up with an escaped, rough young woman in her car. The grandmother feels unsafe, but she figures a way out of the trouble.
One thing Munro does well is subtext. The characters are saying or doing one thing, but they are actually something else is happening. In the story, “Rich as Stink,” Karin, a ten-year old girl visits her neighbor, Ann, and Karin notices, “She had put makeup on her face so it didn’t look so blotchy.” Karin notices that Ann had been crying, but Ann takes her to find some old clothes, and she puts her wedding dress on Karin. Ann tries to distract Karin from the fact that she had been crying, because she has to sell the house, and her husband doesn't love her anymore.
One other story in which there is subtext is the last one in the book, “My Mother’s Dream.” It is about a young woman, Jill, who has a baby, whose husband dies in World War II, and afterwards she stays with her in-laws. Jill doesn’t like the baby, and the baby doesn’t like her at first, but the baby takes to the sister-in-law Iona. Iona and Aisla and their mother have to go for a ride to visit someone, and Jill does not know how to be alone with the baby. When they come back, Iona thinks Jill murdered the baby, and mayhem ensues; the doctor comes to visit. The doctor and Aisla have a moment, “Too speedily and guiltily he took his own hands away. If he had not done it, it would have looked like an ordinary comfort he was administering. As a doctor is entitled to do.” There is something between the doctor and Aisla, but it’s a secret, as there are other secrets in this collection.
Ms. Hen did not think she could finish this book in a week, because it is long, but she did. She doesn’t give herself deadlines when she reads, but she likes to write about a book once a week. But even thought this book is lengthy, it is engrossing. It’s no wonder that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize – Ms. Hen thinks she deserves it! And though Ms. Hen has strong opinions, she’s usually right.