Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Lives of Girls and Women

I love Lives of Girls and Women.  It was every bit as wonderful as I remember.  It is the book which made me a fan of Alice Munro. Del is such an interesting, complex, character.  I could relate to Del.She struggles against her parentage, against expectations, to become a full person. Del is multi-dimensional. She is smart, interested in reading and learning, and it sets her apart from other girls her age. She want to be more, but doesn't dismiss the possiblity of love and doesn't ignore her sexual desires in favour of her brain. She lets her personal life interfere with her academic life, like so many people do; it's not realistic to fully compartmentalize. Del feels real and I think that's what makes the novel so compelling.

It's not quite a "regular" novel.  The book feels like slices out of Del's life, moving progressively from beginning to end, but occasionally circling back on itself.  Each chapter only deals with a certain theme or subject at a time.  It is cohesive as a whole, but I can also imagine how each section can be read on its own with completeness.  That's how I felt many years ago when I first read the novel and that's how I feel now.

Before I re-read Lives of Girls and Women, I looked at the pages.  Out of them stuck scattered, bright pink, sticky notes.  I wondered what they would say and if they would change how I read the book.  For the most part, they were the thoughts I probably had anyway.  Some did lead me forward, to look out for certain events or passages, if the note referred to something near the end of the page it was stuck too. Then I was looking for what I had referred to as "masculine" or "drowning".

On page 197 of my edition (pictured above) I couldn't help but feel drawn to this line, "I wanted men to love me, and I wanted to think of the universe when I looked at the moon. I felt trapped, stranded; it seem there had to be a choice where there couldn't be a choice."  The novel is clearly about women; through Del, we see the lives of her mother, Naomi, Naomi's mother, Fern and other women in the town.  There is more than one way to be a woman, though there may be scorn from other groups of women.  Del aspires to be different than all of them.  Though this wasn't touted to me as a feminist novel in school, I think it is.  Del doesn't talk about equal rights, but she doesn't want to be relegated into a typical female category.

I'm so happy that this was my Classics Club Spin book. I wanted to re-read it for the Club, I just needed the right nudge.  I also finished it today and I'm getting the post up with just a couple hours to spare. If I had the time, I could have easily read this book in a day.  It's not long.  The writing is fluid and magical (that's right, I said magical). It makes me eager to read more by Munro that I haven't yet (Friend Of My Youth maybe) and also re-read more (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage? There's a movie coming out). I'm excited to see what the next Classics Club Spin brings me. Also, if you haven't read Lives of Girls and Women, why not?  Not much could have stopped me from finishing it today.


  1. I've read quite a few of Munro's short story collection over the years, mostly with a great deal of love and affection. However, I haven't heard of this one.
    Is it a full length novel, a novella or one of her usual short stories presented on it's own?

    It sounds like one I will have to look out for though.

    1. I believe it is her only novel. It's also one of her most celebrated works. I highly recommend it.