Alice Munro (2006) the view from Castle Rock

As Graham Greene famously said: ‘There’s always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.' This the seed crop of Munro’s stories. It shows her father’s, fathers’ father, a cousin of James Hogg, leaving the Ettrick Valley in Scotland for the wilds of America, which was really Canada. A good author draws you in and puts you on the boat with them.  I was all for leaving the Laidlaw family on the boat, but I persevered until they hit the new country. It was a rocky patch. I almost left the family stranded mid-page, but then I picked up a distant view of Munro’s father, William Laidlaw, named after the one before the son. There are so many it got a bit confusing. With Munro’s father the reader is on solid rock and the fog of confusion disappeared. Munro creeps up on his life with a writer’s eye, the splinters of their comparative youth held up to our eye. The view from Castle Rock is not America, or even Fife, it’s the human heart and a man’s life. 


CM I might well read this soon, now you have drawn my attention to it. In Scotland, as you know, it was often the Clearances when sheep paid better to the powers that be than people;  in Ireland, as the ballad The Green Fields of Canada ( I used to have the Planxty album Cold Blow and a Rainy Night) tells us, the 'manufactories have crossed the Atlantic'. People usually leave home with good reason and I am sure Alice tells her ancestor's stories in a human-hearted way.

You mention James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. I have not read any of his writings however one of my favourite acoustic songs is Both sides of the Tweed. Dick Gaughan used some of Hoggs lyrics and created the melody.      Elsie

Ah, James Hogg, The Confessions of a Justified Sinner. I'm sure I battered through it in my misguided youth. God knows what it's about though. And yes, I do think this Munro is one worth scaling. For me the last two thirds were a delight. Good luck with it.