Munro, Alice. View from Castle Rock: Stories. New York: Random House, 2006.
Smith Memorial PR9199.3.M8 V54 2006
Review by Tim Spurgin
I can see why people had trouble with The View from Castle Rock. The collection begins with a curious preface, in which Munro seems to apologize for bringing its contents together, and then the book proceeds to break itself in two. The first half, as you may know, is set in the past. It concerns Munro’s ancestors, taking us through several generations before ending with the story of her own oddly matched parents. The second half focuses on the development of a single individual—the author herself—following her from girlhood to early old age. There is an imbalance here, then, and at times a kind of awkwardness too.
That doesn’t bother me, though. I’m a Munro junkie—I picked up the habit from my mother, I think—and so, while I can’t put Castle Rock up there with Runaway, I won’t hesitate to recommend it. My advice is: Don’t worry too much about that preface, and don’t be afraid to jump ahead to the central piece in the first section—it’s the title story, where Munro imagines her family’s trip across the ocean in 1818. After that, it’s all good. Other high points? From the first half, “Working for a Living,” the one about her parents; and from the second, “Fathers,” “Lying Under the Apple Tree,” and “Hired Girl.” In these pieces, Munro returns to familiar themes—sex, class, other people—and works her usual magic. For this last little bit of summertime, you couldn’t hope to do much better.