Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro

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Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: A collection of later short stories from this celebrated writer.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 434 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099593775

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I had heard great things about Alice Munro’s work, which, believe it or not, I had not got around to reading before being offered the chance to review this latest collection. It is a good introduction for those new to her work, as it features a range of different styles and subjects.

Munro packs an extraordinary amount into a short story. Some of them are quite long for short stories, and they are not the sorts of stories that might suit reading on your daily commute; they demand more attention than that. Her observations of human behaviour are acute, and the most innocuous of them will set you thinking a great deal. Most of the stories warrant a pause for thought and need a little time for absorption of detail.

Munro has that very particular skills of making the ordinary everyday things come to life. For example, the setting of a table and preparing food for a party becomes a way to gauge character qualities; entrenched family jokes are used as a way to explain a range of individuals. Subsequently, this can make some of the stories seem almost like novellas, and they will stay in your mind a long time afterwards.

There are some stories which have a ring of an 'inevitable fate' about them and the characters seem to have frustratingly little control over what is happening to them. This is an interesting experience to have as a reader; generally I prefer characters who are strong and taking charge of their lives. However, it reminded me that the reality is that many people drift and never make plans for their lives. Munro does not shy away from showing that, or showing the worst qualities of her characters, and leading them to an inevitable outcome, which certainly doesn’t always make for happy endings.

I also think these stories require patience. There were moments when I wondered if any event was forthcoming, especially when I was well into a story and it seemed - seemed being the operative word - that quite little had happened. It’s not that I am someone who requires constant action in my novels and I do enjoy work that is carefully observed. However, the meandering pace with some of the longer stories took a little getting used to and I have had more experience of short stories which are structured quite differently.

Patience is key; when you reach the end of such stories, you will realise why they have been designed the way they have. Also, there is a way in which the writing mirrors the pace of change, and sometimes both readers and characters find themselves on the edge of realisation of changes that have occurred, as they often do in real life, almost by creeping up on you unnoticed.

This is a nicely varied collection of short stories, but they are stories which require a good deal of attention and they will give the reader plenty of food for thought in return.

One practical note – the font used in this book is very small and I say that as someone who does not require reading glasses. Some readers might wish to consider buying the digital edition for this reason.

Overall, a lovely collection of complex and rewarding short stories which left me keen to read more of Munro's work.

If this book appeals then you might enjoy Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories by Cecily Gayford (editor).

Buy Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro at

Buy Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro at


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