The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
The View from Castle Rock was book of the month in my book group recently. It is a book of short stories by the Canadian author Alice Munro, which was published in 2006 by McClelland and Stewart. It is a collection of historical and autobiographical stories. Munro was recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Munro had a Scottish ancestor called Margaret Laidlaw Hogg, “famous locally for the number of verses she carried in her head”. Sir Walter Scott published some of her verses in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Munro has called on her celebrated powers of “making it up”, an activity that some of her forebears shared. Some left letters and diaries, which provide the spine of these stories on which she puts the flesh. Her most distinguished ancestor was James Hogg, the “Ettrick Shepherd” and author of The Confessions of a Justified Sinner: it was he who took Scott to meet Margaret Laidlaw Hogg.
Alice Munro certainly has her ancestors story telling gene in her veins. The View from Castle Rock is fluidly organised. It tells of overlapping lives employs diffuse, wave-like narrative forms: delicate ripples of understatement, washes of implication, the lingering backwash of human interactions.
Just as there is no real division here between fiction and non-fiction, in The View from Castle Rock, neither is there any turning point at which the epic story of emigration gives way to observation of the nuance and detail of settled lives. It is a delightful book and I highly recommend it.