Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro.

In the limbo week between Christmas and New Year, life goes on, a little bit slower than normal, a little fuzzy at the edges but still on it rolls. I like it. I like not having a clue what day of the week it is, I like eating left-overs and not getting dressed till late. The lazy afternoons, the slow walks. A little reading, a little knitting.

I’m currently sitting at my desk taking a rest from some college work, two of the boys are watching a rugby match with Mr M and another is taking apart, and hopefully putting back together, his computer. The dog is snoring at my feet.

I’m behind in talking about books I’ve read… they’re slowly piling up on the corner of my desk… and totally illogically I’m going to begin with the latest one I’ve read.

Alice Munro, Canadian, short story writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Beautiful writer.

Lives of Girls and Women is her only novel I believe and it’s just … wonderful. It reminded me of ‘Stoner’ (by John Edward Williams), in as much is a novel about life and people, amazingly observed and so carefully and beautifully written to appear to have been done without effort… while we know that to achieve that level of effortlessness… takes a lot of work!

I normally don’t like long descriptions… my mind wanders and I much prefer a dialogue or a tight prose like Elizabeth Strout who can say so much with so few words… but Munro got me. I was ‘in’ the world she described, I could see it.

We follow Del Jordan as she grows up in a small Canadian town of Jubilee, we get to know her family, her friends, we live with her adolescence and first experiences with boys and sex and … life… in all its forms.

People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable – deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

Each chapter is about a different time in her life and could almost be read as stand alone short stories, but all together they weave this glorious tapestry that draws you in and traps you there. Del is surrounded by women and girls, and she tries, through observing others to find herself and own way into the world… she’s not like her old fashioned aunts, her feminist mother, her traditional friends…

What was a normal life? It was the life of the girls in the creamery office, it was showers, linen and pots and pans and silverware, that complicated feminine order; then, turning it over, it was the life of the Gay-la Dance Hall, driving drunk at night along the black roads, listening to men’s jokes, putting up with and warily fighting with men and getting hold of them, getting hold – one side of that life could not exist without the other, and by undertaking and getting used to them both a girl was putting herself on the road to marriage. There was no other way. And I was not going to be able to do it.”

If you’re looking for a deceptively quiet book that nevertheless delivers plenty of punches… this is for you. A real gem. Perceptive, delicate, forceful, one of those books that will stay with you like an echo for a while.

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