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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She is just totally brilliant
Yes, this may not mean much coming from a twelve year old, but Ms Munro, I thought your book was absolutely brilliant. The only thing that worried me was that air of sour mystery, the anticipation of disappointed expectations, a slight shivering of dread as if no matter how well we obey our parents, listen to our teachers, toe whatever invisible line has been drawn for...
Published on July 20, 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not My Favorite
Had this been my first Alice Munro book, I probably would have quit. The character Flo, in the title, was merely a bookend. Flo was, however, clearly drawn. I kept hoping I could get a handle on this wishy-washy character Rose. She was, from my view, the essence of ambivalence. Now, ambivalence is an interesting character trait, but too much of an interesting thing...
Published 5 months ago by Julie Ann Wambach


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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She is just totally brilliant, July 20, 2000
A Kid's Review
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Yes, this may not mean much coming from a twelve year old, but Ms Munro, I thought your book was absolutely brilliant. The only thing that worried me was that air of sour mystery, the anticipation of disappointed expectations, a slight shivering of dread as if no matter how well we obey our parents, listen to our teachers, toe whatever invisible line has been drawn for us in the sand, we will in all likelihood end up alone, eating chili out of cans and opening up some tuna for the cats. But if we can have all that, our health, and a light to read your stories by, I guess it won't be all that bad.:)
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of my favorite books, February 19, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
I've read this book countless times, and will continue to read it again and again. Two stories in the collection, "Simon's Luck," and "The Beggar Maid," are two of my favorite stories ever written. I read these stories, and others by Alice Munro, whenever I feel heartbroken, at a loss, and full of grief...and they never fail to soothe me, to allow me to see the world in new ways.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beggar Maid is a remarkable collection of stories, November 1, 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Alice Munro is one of our greatest living writers. In "The Beggar Maid: stories of Flo and Rose" her writing demonstrates why. Skillfully crafting characters which are hauntingly real, Munro introduces her readers to the small town of West Hanratty, Ontario. It is an intimate portrait of a place and its people, and of the life of a woman, Rose, and her step-mother, Flo. At times comic, and others painfully dramatic, these stories reveal the deep experiences of what it means to find an identity, to love, and to understand oneself. An absolutely brilliant collection of short stories
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Work in a Minor Key, February 15, 2002
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
I had read a review in the ATLANTIC MONTHLY extolling Alice Munro to the skies, so I decided to give her a try by reading this novel.
Without a doubt, the praise is well deserved. If one just looks at a summary of the story by itself, it's another typical women's novel about relationships. What makes it so much more is the fineness and fitness of Munro's perceptions about the way real people think, feel, and express themselves. On the second page, Rose's biological mother says that she feels as if there were "a boiled egg in my chest, with the shell left on." She then proceeds to die of a blood clot on her lung. An image like that sticks in one's craw for many pages.
Later, Rose takes a train trip through heavy snow to Banff: "The train crept along slowly, fearful of avalanches. Rose ... liked the idea of their being shut up in this dark cubicle, under the rough train blankets, borne through such implacable landscape. She always felt that the progress of trains, however perilous, was safe and proper. She felt that planes, on the other hand, might at any moment be appalled by what they were doing, and sink through the air without a whisper of protest."
As we see Rose grow up, get married, get divorced, try as a single mother to hook up with skittish males, and make her way through a middling, muddling life path, we experience a rising crescendo of minor epiphanies. Munro's language always gives dignity to moments of embarrassment, frustration, and minor-key elation.
After having second thoughts about her marriage to Patrick, she falls in love with him again as she sees the vulnerable nape of his neck as he, unknowing, studies in a library carrel. In the end, it turns out to be a bad move as Patrick gives up everything he held dear to become a carbon copy of his obnoxious suburbanite father. What saves the moment is that I can feel each such objective correlative deeply because I've made major decisions on equally shaky grounds.
Munro knows the language of the heart in all its minuteness and treats every step and misstep with the same respect and even love. She is a superb writer, and I eagerly look forward to reading her other works.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful short story collection, September 18, 2003
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
I don't even LIKE short stories. I always turn the last page over, and go, `Huh? Where's the rest of it?' But I make an exception for some authors, and Alice Munro is one of them. The Beggar Maid is a collection of stories that verges on some vague new definition of The Novel. It's full of unexpected time leaps in time and even more unexpected transformations of the constant characters. It's all a bit mysterious, confusing, suggestive - and altogether exhilarating. Munro weaves, picks apart, reweaves, then interweaves these stories about two women over a span of 40 years. They are prudish and suspicious Flo, and Rose, her stepdaughter, an awkward pathetic creature who somehow pulls herself out of her stultifying home town and embarks on her own life out in the big bad world.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books of the last quarter century, December 4, 2000
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Alice Munro's "The Beggar Maid" is probably the best collection of short stories I've evr read, though their interconnected nature makes it seem like you're reading a novel. In either case, it shows the trademark of all good literature: it touches you, deeply.
Alice Munro may very well be the best short story writer alive today. Comparisons to Chekhov are not far-fetched. The title story, "Royal Beatings," and several others are masterpieces of the form. Munro's writing shows a wisdom and a psychological depth possessed only by the most accomplished artists and students of human nature. Not to mention her prose: spell-binding (I would read the Yellow Pages front to back if Ms. Munro penned them).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We shouldn't be surprised - this is Alice Munro after all, April 4, 2007
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Alice Munro has a special place in the contemporary literature. She is the best short story writer alive - period. Nobody does what she does. She can create a whole life in a few pages, using not many words and beautifully dealing with descriptions, plot and character development. Many writers do all these points - some of them are really good -, but there is something in her Chekhovian realism that nobody can do as good.

"The Beggar Maid" is no different. She builds up her characters story after story. This a collection of short stories, but can be read as a novel, as well. The narratives deal with Flo and Rose, a stepmother and a girl throughout many years in their lives. Therefore, we can follow their complicated relationship of love and hate.

Alice Munro is precise in the choice of words to build up an image in her reader's mind. Nevertheless, she doesn't need to spend pages of description to assure the result she wants. The description is necessary to set the story. In this sense, her prose is filled with metaphors and depth.

Alice Munro's body of work is part of a greater one, the one that include masters such as Chekhov himself, Raymond Carver, John Cheever and Andre Dubus, to name a few. They are writers able to create a whole word with a few sentences. The feeling after reading one of their stories lasts longer than the time it took to complete the task. That is what we can call profound.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzled again..., February 3, 2012
This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
Alice Munro is an addiction. My wife might have put her finger on the essence of the matter: "You like her so much because her stories are like Leonard Cohen songs." Well, maybe. I leave it for the academic types to discern a fundamental Canadian thread linking the two for a PhD thesis. Fortunately, I am well beyond such possibilities or inclinations, and simply enjoy her beautifully expressed deep, deep insights into the human condition and relationships.

I recently read and reviewed her latest work Too Much Happiness: Stories, and felt it appropriate to read this collection, which is one of her earlier works, and which propelled her to deserved literary acclaim. The collection was written and published in the late `70's, and came out in Canada under the title of the last story "Who do you think you are?" while in the USA one of the middle stories was selected as the title: "The Beggar Maid." Unlike some other collections, all these stories are linked by the two principal characters: the step-mother, Flo, and the daughter, Rose. Each story is self-sufficient, and delivers a novel's worth of insights. A secular Decalogue.

Rose's mother dies early in the first story, of a blood clot on the lung. Her father soon thereafter marries Flo. They live "on the wrong side of the bridge" in a small village in Western Ontario. They run a small store from their home, and time and time again Munro provides the telling rich details of lower middle class life. In a much later story, "Simon's luck," Munro embeds what seems to be her own technique into the tale: "... those shifts of emphasis that throw the story line open to question, the disarrangements which demand new judgments and solutions, and throw the windows open on inappropriate unforgettable scenery." And so it is, in "Royal Beatings," where Flo manipulates the dad into giving the rebellious, just coming-of-age Rose a beating of the title's magnitude, yet Munro also provides a long leap to the future, when Rose is placing Flo into the nursing home.

"Privilege" concerned grade school, outhouses, boys who waited and lingered, and the girl she idolized, Cora. "Half a Grapefruit" is Rose's ingenious answer, hoping to shed her country origins. "Wild Swans" concerns her reaction to the groping hands of a preacher on a train. To single out one story as particularly brilliant seems to be a grave injustice to the others, but the book's title story is such, and relates her courtship, and eventual marriage by Patrick, while they are at college. Rose's strong ambivalence about marriage recalls some of the work of Anita Brookner. It is that crazy "I need you; I don't need you, and all of that jiving around" of Leonard Cohen. Consider Munro's description of the initial consummation: "Patrick was never a fraud; he managed, in spite of gigantic embarrassment, apologies; he passed through some amazed pantings and flounderings, to peace. Rose was no help, presenting instead of an honest passivity much twisting and fluttering eagerness, unpracticed counterfeit of passion."

So, a marriage of mismatches happens, and how often is that the normal course of events. And thus, can the inevitable "affair" be far behind. As Munro describes it: What was she in love with, then, what did she want of him? She wanted tricks, a glittering secret, tender celebrations of lust, a regular conflagration of adultery. All this after five minutes in the rain." Powell River proved to be the unlikely venue for the denouement to those five minutes.

A child, and a snow storm prove to be impediments to another affair, once Rose is divorced. And live comes full circle, when the child becomes the parent, and Munro brilliantly describes the aging process, and the necessity for Rose to put Flo in the nursing home.

Much still remains untouched. Rose is so realistically depicted... if I had only known then, what Munro describes now. What are they waiting for? She really does deserve the Nobel Prize. I can only contribute the most modest nudge, with 6-stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escape and Identity, May 14, 2012
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This review is from: The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (Paperback)
I continue to slowly read Munro's collections - in order - and I continue to be quietly amazed at what I find there. She has a particular way of showing relationships between people, usually women and girls. Here, the stories center on Rose, with most of them also focused on her step-mother, Flo. The complications of their bond is what keeps burbling up. Underneath it all is a kind of proud poverty, where Flo scrubs the floor on her hands and knees and saves for an indoor bathroom, crammed into the corner of the kitchen with little privacy. Rose escapes - into books, into school, and into marriage, and seems to keep escaping through all the stories.

The original title of this book was "Who Do You Think You Are?" and that line frames the collection. You'll read it in the first story, "Royal Beatings," and in the final one. This is the pervasive theme here, one of identity, and forming one's self while young, while growing into adulthood, and while edging toward self-acceptance in mid-life. The question - who do you think you are? - could be asked in earnest, in anger to a smart-alecky child, or in that debasing way meant to bring someone down away from her aspirations. It is something a character could ask herself or that another could ask of her. There is so much there.

All the stories interconnect, and it could be said they function as a kind of novel. But for me, it doesn't work so well as a novel, which doesn't take anything away from it. Linked stories are always interesting to me, as the characters or situations come back around. There is history there, but not a long range mounting narrative, although it covers a long span of time, from Rose's childhood to middle age, and from Flo's very young motherhood to her death. The one curious thing was why there was so little about Rose and her only child, a daughter, Anna. Only one story turns its attention on that relationship. But I suppose that wasn't Munro's intent here. Regardless, it's always a treat to read one of her stories, put the book down, and savor the lines and passages and relationships. I'm not sure why I'm giving it 4 stars, except that I've liked other of her books better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not My Favorite, January 22, 2014
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Had this been my first Alice Munro book, I probably would have quit. The character Flo, in the title, was merely a bookend. Flo was, however, clearly drawn. I kept hoping I could get a handle on this wishy-washy character Rose. She was, from my view, the essence of ambivalence. Now, ambivalence is an interesting character trait, but too much of an interesting thing becomes a bore. The descriptions of place were, as always remarkable. I can still remember the house where Flo raised Rose. I remember Hanratty and West Hanratty. I remember the house where Rose met Patrick's parents, and the small house sitting high where she entertained friends in later life. BUT I CAN NOT DESCRIBE ROSE. I don't know what she looked like and I have no idea what motivated her except that she could never make up her mind and then seemed to act aimlessly. It didn't work for me.
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The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose by Alice Munro (Paperback - May 7, 1991)
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