STILL LIFE

Alice Munro’s new book re­veals the wound into which she has been dip­ping her pen dur­ing her re­mark­able ca­reer, writes Te­gan Ben­nett Day­light

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

hus­band, Peter, is on the plat­form, wav­ing and smil­ing. ‘‘ The smile for Katy was wide open, sunny, with­out a doubt in the world, as if he be­lieved that she would con­tinue to be a marvel to him, and he to her, for­ever.’’ The smile for Greta is more com­pli­cated, and con­tains some­thing ‘‘ that could not eas­ily be put into words and in­deed might never be’’. This is at the heart of Munro’s work, the thing that could not be put into words. But Munro, more than any other writer, works calmly and tire­lessly to put the un­sayable on the page. Greta, who is hop­ing to meet a pos­si­ble lover at the end of her jour­ney, rushes to­wards her fate with a quick sex­ual skir­mish aboard the train, dur­ing which she be­lieves Katy, who is three or four, is asleep in their berth.

When she checks on Katy, she is gone. Greta, pan­icked, fi­nally finds her sit­ting alone and lost ‘‘ on one of those con­tin­u­ally noisy sheets of metal’’ that join the car­riages to­gether. Katy is not hurt, but she is not safe; the po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter is enor­mous.

There is a uni­ver­sal qual­ity to Alice Munro’s prose

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