Book Review- Queenie by Alice Munro

Is reading a craft?  I think writing is so reading is the appreciation of a craft…

Alice Munro recently won the Pulitzer Prize for literature for her short stories.  I have always had a problem with shirt stories; they seem to stop when they have just got going.  That being said I am put off by giant tomes (particularly lugging them around in my bag) and in that spirit my sister gave me Queenie for Christmas saying ‘You like short things so I got you this’, or words to that effect.  And it is short; 60 A6 pages in reasonably sized font.  In fact, I finished it on my way to work with ample time to contemplate it!

It’s set in the 1960’s I think, they mention ‘beehive’ hair and ‘The Byrds’, and is about the eponymous Queenie who leaves home when she is 18 to married a horrible, controlling older widower.  Or rather it’s about her sister who is telling the story giving shades of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (my favourite book which is traumatising to read! So many awful things happen!)  Of course I’m simplifying here as I don’t want to give spoilers or ramble on too long.

In 60 little pages, without being sentimental, Alice Munro effectively tugged at my heartstrings making me angry in parts but mainly sad.  It may not be the best book to read on your way to work as it cast a certain gloom over the day.  And perturbation as the ending leaves many questions unanswered, you can even grieve for the characters misery as it’s not clear if that’s the appropriate emotion.

I enjoyed reading it.  It was frustrating because it felt like only half the story, but I think that was also the power of it too; a snapshot of the lives of a family you’ve never met.