Those of you who follow such things will know that the Canadian author Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature last year. If you have not heard of her before, it might be because Alice Munro is not a novelist; rather she is a prolific short story writer, who was credited as being a “master of the contemporary short story”. Anyway, the publicity was enough to make me curious to read one of short story collections, and I chose The Love of a Good Woman.

The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro

The collection comprises eight longish stories, ranging from thirty to seventy-five pages in length. The stories are all set in Canada, with most being in Munro’s own home town of Ontario. Most stories have a central female character, and explore her relationship with her mother, husband, or daughter.

The stories focus on the lives of ordinary people and explore the nuances of their relationships, their passions, and their failings. Despite the collection’s title, there is little romanticism here. The characters are all fairly limited in their own ways, there is as much miscommunication as there is connection, and the outcomes are rarely what the characters had hoped for.

Unusually, many of the stories cover long periods of time, with Munro sometimes skipping backwards and forwards within the same story. This is, of course, a technique not uncommon amongst novelists, but I do not remember seeing it employed by a short story writer before.

As a slight aside, I have to say that I think that Munro chooses some great titles for both her stories and for her collections. The following are just some of her short story collections, and I love the titles of each:

  • Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974)
  • Who Do You Think You Are? (1978)
  • The Progress of Love (1986)
  • Open Secrets (1994)
  • The Love of a Good Woman (1998)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001)
  • Too Much Happiness (2009)
  • Dear Life (2012)

The two stand-out stories in The Love of a Good Woman to my mind, are the title one and The Children Stay. I found both to be captivating and extremely well told. I would say that the other stories were good rather than great. However, it was good to read some short stories once more, even though I did not love this collection quite as much as some of the other short story collections I have read. (If you are interested in finding out about other short story collections that I recommend, use the Short story collection category.)