In the most powerful of these new pieces — four or five of which seem to me to belong with the best of Munro — the central figure, usually though not always female, begins with a harsh hand dealt to her … What's impressive is that such vivid, external perceptions are complemented and balanced by a more exploratory, inwardly poetic kind of writing, which is especially evident in the three first-person stories … The lovely formal-sounding waves that fill this collection, surely Munro's best yet, are in their wise sadness the product of such attention paid.
In her new collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, showing that the impulse toward love, if not love itself, dies hard, she follows her characters’ erotic lives straight through the chemotherapy ward, into the nursing home, on into the funeral parlor … There is not one of her stories in this new book that does not put together characters with real if subtle class divisions between them. This Munro does with a neutral, unsentimental eye and limber sympathies … Because she tends toward the long story, and writes with a long view of life as well, time is both her subject and her medium, its mysteries and flukes both pondered and employed. Her narratives leap and U-turn through time, and the actual subject and emotion of a story may be deferred in such gymnastic travel, or may be multiple or latent.
The stories in her new collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, are no exception: they attest to her Chekhovian ability to create characters as real and flawed and sympathetic as people we know firsthand and to show us how those characters are shaped by love and loss and the simple passage of time … In most cases the reader is invited to sympathize with the characters, to experience their hopes and grudges as they do, so nimbly does Ms. Munro capture their passing moods and states of mind … It is tales like '’Nettles,’ ‘Family Furnishings’ and ‘Post and Beam’ that best showcase Ms. Munro's gifts as a storyteller. In them the narratives move seemingly artlessly back and forth in time, from past to present and back into memory, to give the reader the sense of an entire life.
The stories in this new collection don't play dazzling tricks with time and memory as some of her recent work has, but they're sagacious nevertheless … They're like compressed novels, three-course meals rather than the unsatisfying canapes most short stories resemble. They are replete with the histories of restless girls trying to shake off their mundane origins and grown women who have built dream castles around a single, breathless, unconfessed adultery … This is the terrain of love seen from the long prospect, a seasoned view. As unprepossessing as her characters may seem, Munro knows that their lives include the far reaches of ambition, betrayal, regret and, finally, wisdom.
Munro deals in people whose fates have slowly worked themselves out over decades, and whose situations are richly complex and hedged about by history; if a writer must grab their stories out of air, then the resulting snapshots must be understood to be provisional … Throughout a collection peopled with escape artists and stay-at-homes, romancers and romanced, comes Munro's exceptional gift for undercutting her own conjuring tricks, as her characters, pinned to the mast of coincidence and invention, wriggle free and prove themselves ungovernable.
Like the astonishing title story of Munro's previous collection, The Love of a Good Woman, the title story of Hateship, Friendship contains more range, drama, and tonal echoes than most contemporary novels. It is, among other things, a love story, perhaps the hardest spell to cast in 2001 … It is as if Munro has set for herself the challenge of writing credible love stories for a culture that usually satisfies its romantic cravings at the movies and turns to fiction for the hard, ugly truth about marriage. At once wildly romantic and ruefully modern, she renders characters who are middle-class, middle-aged or older, and living in small Canadian towns, yet whose lives yield a drama worthy of Shakespeare's princes and kings.
By turns both lovely and frustrating, Alice Munro’s book of nine new stories, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, offers a realistic window into life’s misfortunes and truths, its delicate moments and unexpected pleasures … It is the very frustration sewn into these stories—their constant shifts of time and perspective, their quick acquaintance with many characters, and their successions of deaths and failures of faith—that creates a collection of such competence. It is this repetition and the keen variations within such repetition that makes us stop and reconsider our lives. Munro transforms the frustration experienced by us, her readers, from a significant weakness into a realistic strength.
Its dreadful title is just about the only thing wrong with this stunning tenth collection from Canada’s matchless chronicler of women’s external fates, inner lives, and painful journeys toward and away from self-understanding … Rich, mature, authoritative stories veined with respectful attention to the complexity and singularity of vagrant, cluttered and compromised lives.
All of the stories share Munro's characteristic style, looping gracefully from the present to the past, interpolating vignettes that seem extraneous and bringing the strands together in a deceptively gentle windup whose impact takes the breath away. Munro has few peers in her understanding of the bargains women make with life and the measureless price they pay.