Open Secrets

Open Secrets

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Open Secrets, Alice Munro's eighth book, consists of eight matchless stories, each one as rich as a full novel. All of them provide compulsive reading -- and rewarding re-reading. "Perhaps you will be surprised to hear from a person you don't know and that doesn't remember your name." These intriguing words begin a letter dated 1917 to the Librarian in Carstairs, Ontario (the heart of "Alice Munro Country"). The letter sweeps us away into a world of secrets and revelations where nothing -- not even a courtship by letter that leads, over time, to a solid marriage -- is as it originally seems. The Ontario stories range from "A Wilderness Station," which gives an account of an 1852 tree-felling accident and sheds light on the harsh life of the pioneers, all the way to the present, where family names known to us appear again in a world of TV shows and snowmobiles. Just as the stories range back and forth in time, they also travel far to distant settings. Much of "The Albanian Virgin" is set in a remote mountain area where a Canadian tourist in the 1920s is captured by bandits; her tale of escape is comforting to a Victoria bookseller escaping from her own former life. "The Jack Randa Hotel" brings a deserted wife in cold pursuit to Australia, which leads to another intriguing letter. "Dear Mrs. Thornaby, It has come to my attention that you are dead…" Things that cannot be explained happen here. In the title story a lawyer's wife has a flash of insight -- illogical, unprovable and terrifying -- into the fate of a missing teenager; in another, the appearance of a long-dead visitor reveals the grip of a former love. Yet the true magic lies in the way that Alice Munro makes everything here -- unexpected marriages, elopements, acts of sudden vengeance -- unfold with the ease of the inevitable. This is the mark of a great writer, and it is stamped on every page of this book.
ISBN: 9780771066993


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Jan 17, 2021

The Week Best Books chosen by Bruce McCall

Dec 10, 2019

Alice Munro is widely regarded as one of Canada's foremost writers, winner of the Nobel prize in 2013. Her works have been celebrated, adapted, dramatized and translated for the benefit of the world. As a fellow Canadian, I suppose I ought to say that I enjoy her work, or at least that I admire it; since I insist on writing honest reviews, I will not profess to either.
I worked my way through this set of eight stories, always hoping that the next one would turn some kind of corner and take me on a bit of a journey. Each time, I was left shaking my head. When I waded into "The Albanian Virgin" I thought "Finally, this bizarre tale really has to go somewhere." Sadly, it didn't. Her stories muddle about for a bit, change voices or POV a couple of times and then just fizzle out. Her characters are unremarkable, her settings mundane (apart from that Maltsia e madhe in the Albanian bit). Simply put: I don't get what Munro is all about. I'm afraid her ambiguity doesn't work for me.

Oct 04, 2017

Several of the stories have moments of great ambiguity and indistinctness in aspects relating to plot, and then they are slightly, but not clearly resolved. It makes them interesting to read and reread. I most liked "A Real Life", "The Albanian Virgin", and "Open Secrets".

Aug 27, 2012

Compelling & character-driven.

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