Lives of Girls and Women (Review)

July 15, 2010

Book cover for "Lives of Girls and Women" by Alice Munro.Title: Lives of Girls and Women

Author: Alice Munro

Publication Year: 2001 (originally published 1971)

Pages: 237

Genre: Fiction, Short Story Cycle

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

From the cover:

The only novel from Alice Munro-award-winning author of The Love of a Good Woman — is an insightful, honest book, “autobiographical in form but not in fact,” that chronicles a young girl’s growing up in rural Ontario in the 1940’s.

Del Jordan lives out at the end of the Flats Road on her father’s fox farm, where her most frequent companions are an eccentric bachelor family friend and her rough younger brother. When she begins spending more time in town, she is surrounded by women – her mother, an agnostic, opinionated woman who sells encyclopedias to local farmers; her mother’s boarder, the lusty Fern Dogherty; and her best friend, Naomi, with whom she shares the frustrations and unbridled glee of adolescence.

Through these unwitting mentors and in her own encounters with sex, birth, and death, Del explores the dark and bright sides of womanhood. All along she remains a wise, witty observer and recorder of truths in small-town life. The result is a powerful, moving, and humorous demonstration of Alice Munro’s unparalleled awareness of the lives of girls and women.

First of all, this isn’t a traditional novel; rather, Munro has written a short story cycle that focuses on one young girl as the main character (and narrator) of each of the stories. It’s a sort of bildungsroman, but if you approach is as a “novel” you may be confused by the jarring time lapses and seeming overlap or missing pieces in different parts of the narrative.

Lives of Girls and Women has a semi-autobiographical feel to it, from the perspective of Del, who starts out the story as a young girl. It has all the usual trappings of a coming of age novel – sex, family problems, sex, religion, sex, schooling … did I mention sex? – with a healthy dose of small-town experience thrown into the mix. It’s all wrapped up in a prose style that is so Alice Munro-esque that it almost hurts.

If you’ve read Alice Munro before, you know what I’m talking about, right?

Anyways, this is not a bad thing, but a thing worth mentioning. I rather like Alice Munro’s writing style. I also loved the focus on small-town Ontario, which is definitely nothing new for Munro, but still much different from most other books that I read. The meandering style of Lives of Girls and Women was exactly what I was expecting in terms of form and narrative, and Munro really has a way of making you experience the lives, trials, and tribulations of her characters. This book was deeply emotional for me, and at times unsettling – but in a good way.

Definitely recommended, especially if you’ve liked other writing from Alice Munro!

Rating:

9 Comments

  • Amy July 16, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I need to try her writing already! I haven’t read anything by her yet, but this sounds really interesting.

    • Carina July 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

      Definitely! I didn’t get around to reading her until about a year ago, and I’m sorry that I waited this long.

  • zibilee July 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve never read anything by Munro, but your review has made me really curious about this book, and her other writing. I am going to have to do some searching on the author and her work and see what looks good to me. Thanks for the awesome review!

    • Carina July 17, 2010 at 2:19 am

      My favourite Munro so far has been Who Do You Think You Are? (my first one). Lives of Girls and Women is only my third Munro so far, but there shall be more!

  • Niranjana (Brown Paper) July 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Alice Munro! My fave is “Who do you think you are?”, followed by “The Moons of Jupiter.” Munro just turned 75 last week btw. You can tell I love her 🙂

    • Carina July 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Ooo, I haven’t read The Moons of Jupiter yet!

  • Niranjana (Brown Paper) July 17, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Dang, I meant 79.

  • Lindsay January 19, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I read Lives of Girls and Women, it was very good. But the ending was slightly confusing. Did anyone else find this? What are your thoughts?

  • Sarah @WordHits April 26, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Nice post. I esp like that you didn’t give any spoilers. I loved this book and now I may have to reread. And, would you believe, I wrote a paper on it as an example of bildungsroman in college. Thanks for this!

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