Summary and book reviews of The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

The View from Castle Rock

Stories

By Alice Munro

The View from Castle Rock
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2006,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

A powerful new collection from one of our most beloved, admired, and honored writers.

In stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World; a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border.

Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape and strong emotions stir just beneath the surface of ordinary comings and goings. First love flowers under the apple tree, while a stronger emotion presents itself in the barn. A girl hired as summer help, and uneasy about her “place” in the fancy resort world she’s come to, is transformed by her employer’s perceptive parting gift. A father whose early expectations of success at fox farming have been dashed finds strange comfort in a routine night job at an iron foundry. A clever girl escapes to college and marriage.

Evocative, gripping, sexy, unexpected—these stories reflect a depth and richness of experience. The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.

No Advantages

This parish possesses no advantages. Upon the hills the soil is in many places mossy and fit for nothing. The air in general is moist. This is occasioned by the height of the hills which continually attract the clouds and the vapour that is continually exhaled from the mossy ground . . . The nearest market town is fifteen miles away and the roads so deep as to be almost impassable. The snow also at times is a great inconvenience, often for many months we can have no intercourse with mankind. And a great disadvantage is the want of bridges so that the traveller is obstructed when the waters are swelled . . . Barley oats and potatoes are the only crops raised. Wheat rye turnips and cabbage are never attempted . . .

There are ten proprietors of land in this parish: none of them resides in it.

Contribution by the Minister of Ettrick Parish, in the county of Selkirk, to the Statistical Account of Scotland, 1799



The Ettrick Valley lies ...

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About This Book

In her most personal collection to date, Alice Munro has created stories based on her own past as well as by elaborating on the traces—letters, records, tombstones—left behind by her ancestors from Scotland who sailed for Canada in 1818.  In the title story, ten-year-old Andrew Laidlaw is taken by his father James to see the view of America—though later he learns that it’s really Fife—from Edinburgh’s Castle Rock. When the family takes ship for the new world, the father who had longed to leave Scotland becomes solidly a man of his ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The first half of this collection is a little different to Munro's usual style, and the more entertaining for it. In the latter half she's on familiar territory but with the twist that she apparently reveals more of herself than in previous collection .... if Munro is a writer you have previously enjoyed or have not yet experienced, this maybe one for you, but if her writing has left you unmoved in the past The View From Castle Rock is unlikely to change your opinion.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Washington Post - Geraldine Brooks

Reading Munro, I often feel like that little girl, my mother, shivering in her dew-drenched nightgown, determinedly searching for an elusive, valuable thing. And that thing is the secret to Munro's prose. There are no pyrotechnics in it, very little poetry. The few similes are apt but not dazzlingly so. There is suspense, but it is contrived without resort to any obvious devices. In short, Munro is the illusionist whose trick can never be exposed. And that is because there is no smoke, there are no mirrors. Munro really does know magic: how to summon the spirits and the emotions that animate our lives.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

Writing style--yes, predictably limpid and lovely. And they are as psychologically astute as one would expect from a very "smart" writer. But they taste like autobiographical essays; her intrusions into the prose not as narrator but as actual author prove distracting and erode the veil of suspension of disbelief.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. And reliably as ever when the subject is human experience, Munro's stories—whatever the proportions of fiction and fact—always bring us the truth.

Library Journal

All the narratives exhibit Munro's keen eye for realistic details and her ability to illuminate the depths of seemingly mundane lives and relationships. Highly recommended.

The Observer (UK) - Adam Mars-Jones

Reading some of these stories gives the feeling of wearing unfamiliar bifocals, needing to angle the head awkwardly so as to bring the fields of vision into alignment. Alice Munro starts with stories that are embroiderings of her family's history, then follows them with more personal pieces, where details are freely changed, but faith is kept with a core of memoir.

Reader Reviews
Greenstein

view from castle rock
Excellent.

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Beyond the Book

Alice Munro was born in 1931 in Wingham, a small town in southwestern Ontario, to a family of small farmers. She began writing stories at the age of 12. She won a two-year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario and while there published several short stories in the student literary magazine. She left before graduating, some sources say this was because she ran out of money, others say it was to get married. She married another student, James Munro, and they raised three daughters and for several years ran a bookshop in Victoria. Later they divorced ...

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