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ALICE MUNRO: A DOUBLE LIFE

Ross, Catherine Sheldrick
Toronto, ECW Press, 1992. 97pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 1-55022-153-1. (Canadian Biography series). CIP


Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up

Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 21 Number 2
1993 March


This useful work in ECW's "Canadian Biography" series provides a remarkably thorough survey, in brief compass, of the life and work of a writer who has gained world recognition as a writer of short fiction.

Alice Munro's own life has been one of her sources as a writer. Ross has drawn on the archives and on her interviews with Alice Munro, members of her family, acquaintances, and colleagues to establish the life and indicate some of its relationships to the stories.

The title indicates Alice Munro's sense of her divided self: the young woman who maintained an ordinary appearance as daughter, student and young mother, and who within kept alive, though suppressed, an existence as a powerfully ambitious artist.

She began writing down poems, and then stories, between the ages of twelve and fifteen, and went on to attempt a novel, an imitation of Wuthering Heights, which had impressed her strongly when she read it at the age of fourteen. Her secret literary life could not have been so absolutely secret, however, since a schoolmate in grade 13 at Wingham High School prophesied that Alice Laidlaw would be an "illustrious author." But for years Alice Munro evidently felt that she lived a life of deception.

Her first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), brought her a Governor General's Award and presumably brought everything into the open. Certainly, it initiated the series of published collections of stories which have continued up to Friend of My Youth1 (1990), the year in which Alice Munro was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize for her outstanding contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of the country.

This short but full biography will please, interest and serve the many students drawn to her stories. It should be in every high school library.


Alan Thomas teaches literature at Scarborough College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario
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