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Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Is your mother going on the road much these days?' they would ask me, and I would say no, oh no, she isn't going out much anymore, but I knew they knew I lied. "Not much time for ironing," they might continue compassionately, examining the sleeve of my blouse. "Not much time for ironing when she has to go out on the road."
I've become a huge fan of Alice Munro's short fiction over the last few years, and so I approached this, marketed as her only novel, with anticipation but also trepidation; would she be able to bring her particular genius to the longer form?

In fact, it turns out to be more of a sequence of linked short stories in the life of the same character than a novel per se - a format Munro also uses in The Beggar Maid - so we are on safe territory. Not that Munro's writing is safe; her protagonist, Del Jordan, a gifted, geeky girl from a rural Ontario background, who knows she is looking for something more than is on offer in her home town but struggles against the oppression of conformity, is presumably autobiographical in large part. Having said that, almost all of the characters are drawn with sympathy and understanding, despite the gentle shades of alienation that suffuse Munro's writing. I think that her short fiction tends to deliver more bang per wordcount, but this is still a good read.

This was both my top unread non-genre fiction book and the top book in that category recommended by you. Next in those lists respectively are The Angel Makers by Stefan Brijs (already read), and A Man of Parts by David Lodge.

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