BookBrowse Reviews The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The View from Castle Rock

Stories

by Alice Munro

The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


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

In the final story in this collection the narrator refers to her quest to uncover the history of her relatives saying, "It happens mostly in our old age, when our personal futures close down and we cannot imagine - sometimes cannot believe in - the future of our children's children. We can't resist this rifling around in the past, sifting the untrustworthy evidence, linking stray names and questionable dates and anecdotes together, hanging on to threads, insisting on being joined to dead people and therefore to life." This sentiment neatly sums up this collection of linked stories based loosely on Munro's life and those of her ancestors. However, she firmly emphasizes that this is fiction with its roots in fact, not a memoir: "The part of this book that might be called family history has expanded into fiction, but always with the outline of a true narrative."

The opening story is set in the present and finds our narrator in Scotland exploring her past. Although this sets the scene very well for the story arc, it is more a collection of anecdotes than a traditional short story with the narrator taking us with her on her explorations as she pieces together snippets from her ancestor's lives lived in the Ettrick Valley during the 17th and 18th centuries. The pace picks up in the second story which is also the title story. Here we meet young Andrew, who is taken by his gently drunk father to the top of Castle Rock in Edinburgh to view America "where every man is sitting in the midst of his own properties, and even the beggars is riding around in carriages." The following three stories see various family members emigrating to North America, first to Illinois and then to Ontario.

The second half of the book, 6 stories grouped under the title "Home" and set in the more recent past, return to Munro's familiar stomping ground of small town Canada, from the viewpoint of a female protagonist. The notable difference being that Munro says that these are "closer to my own life than the other stories I had written, even in the first person ...I was doing something closer to what a memoir does --- exploring a life, but not in an austere or rigorously factual way. I put myself in the center and wrote about that self, as searchingly as I could."

Overall, 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 collections. However, considering that many of her past stories appear to be biographical to some degree (to the point that at least one wit has commented that she hasn't been writing collections of short stories all these years but instead has been creating one vast fictionalized opus of her own life!) this is not a huge departure from the norm. In other words, 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 cold in the past The View From Castle Rock is unlikely to change your opinion.

This review was originally published in December 2006, and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...
  • Book Jacket: See What I Have Done
    See What I Have Done
    by Sarah Schmidt
    Sarah Schmidt's historical fictionalization of the Lizzie Borden story is a tsunami. From the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Happiness
    by Heather Harpham

    A love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.