Short and Sweet: The View from Castle Rock, by Alice Munro

This the June edition of Short & Sweet, just a few days late.  This is one reading project I’ve managed to stay on top of this year, mostly because I’m enjoying it.  Most nights I read in bed for about 15 minutes before going to sleep, and while I don’t always read a complete story, I can usually finish a book of stories within a month.  In June I read The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro.

In The View from Castle Rock, Alice Munro mines her family history to create a set of linked stories spanning 150 years.  Part I begins with ancestors who farmed the land near Edinburgh, Scotland, and eventually made their way to North America, and ends with Munro’s parents making a living in the fur trade.  The stories in Part II are more contemporary, and more personal, dealing with the life of a young woman (presumably based on Munro herself).

Because the stories are linked and chronological, with recurring characters, the book reads like a novel.  In fact, for the last third or so I treated it that way.  Rather than reading a few pages each night, I made this book my “primary read” which allowed me to get inside the characters and see connections between events in different stories.

I enjoyed this book and really, my only quibble is not with Munro but with the publisher, Vintage Books, for poor cover design.  My edition sports a woman (headless!) lying on a sandy beach.  There isn’t a single story that matches this image, nor do the stories depict the “lazy days of summer” implied by the cover design.


In July I’m reading The Stories of Edith Wharton, Vol. 1. Watch for the next installment of Short & Sweet!


10 thoughts on “Short and Sweet: The View from Castle Rock, by Alice Munro

    • Karen, it is daft isn’t it? If I wasn’t already familiar with Munro, I’d think this was chick lit. Disappointing, really, that a publisher would make such a choice.

  1. I keep meaning to get round to my copy of this. I’m a big fan of Munro’s writing but somehow when I pick up one of her book’s, I haven’t been drawn to this one. Reading your review makes me wonder why – I love inter-connected stories! Maybe you’ll be the one to help me finally pull it off the shelf, Laura.
    My cover shows a young girl, lying on grass and writing in an exercise book. Is that more appropriate to the book, do you think?

    • Dee, I liked this because of its chronological progression, and knowing that the stories were based on Munro’s family history. But I think my favorite book of linked stories is Olive Kitteridge. As for your cover, it sounds like a better fit, since many stories in Part II deal with a young girl coming of age.

  2. I appreciate this review Laura as I have the book and would like to get to it soonish. I like the idea of reading short stories before going to sleep but sometimes reading anything at all in bed puts me right to sleep. I’m not sure how much I’d get read but I’d like to try it. I have the hardcover and can’t remember what the cover is but yours is certainly mystifying.

    • Bonnie, it’s funny about reading at bedtime. I usually find myself nodding off downstairs before we even head up to bed, but I often get a “second wind” when I open my bedtime reading book.

  3. Oh I like Munro’s writing. I’d like to read this one, along with Runaway from 2004, and Dear Life from 2012. I read Too Much Happiness from 2009 which turned me on to her stories. thx for the word on Castle Rock.

  4. I agree; that cover image doesn’t suit my memory of this collection at all. The Canadian cover image is perhaps also a little misleading in that it seems to fit the earlier stories in the collection best, but it is definitely more suitable in my opinion. Have you read her Lives of Girls and Women? I think you might like that one, but the stories are too long to fit into 15-minutes-before-bed, IIRC. I’m enjoying your short and sweet posts!

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