Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Stories

Book - 1978
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Who Do You Think You Are? . "All ten of the stories in the book follow the career of Rose, whom we first meet as a child growing up in the small town of Hanratty. Rose is a clever, shyly ambitious girl who is fascinated yet appalled by the rude energy of the people around her. After surviving the tensions and embarrassments of home and high school (and a bizarre sexual initiation on a train) she leaves the world of Hanratty and enters university. There, to the surprise of both families, she meets and marries Patrick, heir to a large West Coast fortune. Their married life in Vancouver is not a success, and produces a series of crises, guilty and unsuccessful affairs, and one child. In due course Rose leaves with her child and begins a successful career as an actress and interviewer. When finally she moves back east, we see her making a wary return to her home territory, a small-town girl who can never lose the small-town sense of involvement, of responsibility...."
Publisher: Toronto : Macmillan, c1978.
ISBN: 9780770517120
0770517129
Characteristics: 206 p.

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1aa
Jan 28, 2017

This was a unique and powerful set of stories tracing the life of Rose from early adulthood to middle age, with all the in between stuff (courtship, marriage, children, affairs, divorce, death of parents and contemporaries). Each story has at least one passage, perhaps only two sentences, or a long paragraph, that illuminates a profound insight (eg., the long paragraph near the end of the last story that uses the concept of translation). My favorite stories from this set are "The Wild Swans", "Simon's Luck", and "Royal Beatings".

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wyenotgo
Aug 21, 2015

I had avoided Alice Munro's work for years, possibly due to some (probably contrarian and wrong-headed) antipathy toward highly regarded "can-lit". And when I started upon Munroe's series of stories beginning with "Royal Beatings" and concluding with "Who Do You Think You Are?" all of which encompass the various stages of the life of one character, Rose, I recall wondering what all the fuss was about. Another tiresome account of a woman who seems to drift through life, often self-destructive, making poor decisions, chasing after hopeless dreams, whatever. Skillfully written, to be sure, but in the end rather dreary. To some degree, Munro's work, even though it's all short stories, has much in common with that of Margaret Laurence: hapless lead characters leading lives of quiet desperation. This is definitely not entertaining stuff to read.
But Munro somehow grows on you, even when her characters do not. She really hit her stride with the second-last story in that series called "Spelling". Her depiction of the sightless, infantile Auntie at the seniors' home, somehow creating an existence within herself by endlessly spelling words is at once horrible and mesmerizing. Munro's exploration of Rose's serenely tragic, mutually judgmental relationship with her half-brother Brian is shockingly insightful and real to anyone who has struggled to gain the approval of one's own family. The scene where Brian voices his contempt for the lives of people like Rose, whom he regards as frivolous, woolly-headed, pretentious lays bare Rose's own self-doubts: "Rose did not know if he spoke the truth or if this was something he had to say in front of her. He offered the bait of his low-voiced contempt; she rose to it." Brilliant writing!

debwalker Oct 10, 2013

October 10, 2013: The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Canadian author Alice Munro, "master of the contemporary short story"!

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