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The Beggar Maid Hardcover – October, 1979

4.0 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Whether Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid is a collection of stories or a new kind of novel I'm not quite sure, but whatever it is, it's wonderful. The psychological precision...is a delight, and the startling twists -- the unexpected leaps in time, the transformation of familiar characters -- they make the book what books ought to be, a little wild, a little mysterious." -- John Gardner

In this exhilarating series of interweaving stories, Alice Munro re-creates the evolving bond -- one that is both constricting and empowering -- between two women in the coupe of almost forty years. One is Flo, practical, suspicious of other people's airs, at times dismayingly vulgar. The other is Rose, Flo's stepdaughter, a clumsy, shy girl who somehow-in spite of Flo's ridicule and ghastly warnings -- leaves the small town she grew up in to achieve her own equivocal success in the larger world.

"The stories are absolutely wonderful-every word she writes is interesting." -- Alice Adams

"The best stories of the year." -- The Nation

Praise from fellow writers:

“Her work felt revolutionary when I came to it, and it still does.” —Jhumpa Lahiri

“She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.” —Jonthan Franzen

“The authority she brings to the page is just lovely.” —Elizabeth Strout

“She’s the most savage writer I’ve ever read, also the most tender, the most honest, the most perceptive.” —Jeffery Eugenides

“Alice Munro can move characters through time in a way that no other writer can.”—Julian Barnes

“She is a short-story writer who…reimagined what a story can do.” —Loorie Moore

“There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story.” —Jim Shepard

“A true master of the form.” —Salman Rushdie

“A wonderful writer.” —Joyce Carol Oates --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

9 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (T); 1st American ed edition (October 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394506820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394506821
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,631,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

A Kid's Review on July 20, 2000
Format: 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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By A Customer on February 19, 2000
Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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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