Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: A Reader's Guide


124 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-122-1
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor in the Faculty of General
Studies, University of Calgary, and the author of Dance of the Sexes:
Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro.


This monograph of critical analysis on one of Munro’s fictional works
includes introductory summations of the book’s importance and of its
critical reception up until 1989, followed by Besner’s own reading of
the text.

The section on the book’s reception will be particularly useful to
the student of Munro’s work: it identifies such previous major
critical interests as initiation, Bildungsroman, and Kьnstlerroman;
paradox, parallel, and double vision; regionalism; narration;
autobiographical fiction; photography, fictional surfaces, and forms of
realism; and texts and textuality, with comment on some representative
critical pieces. Although the categories are somewhat misleading,
particularly with regard to “feminism” (which overlaps with the
likes of autobiographical fiction, textual analysis, and even
regionalism in some critics’ work), this section is a good beginning
in tracing some major critical directions. Clearly, the commentary is
not meant to be exhaustive. As Besner explains, “The sheer volume of
critical articles on Lives of Girls and Women makes it impossible to
list or discuss them all here, or to do much more than cite the five
books and two collections of essays on Munro’s work that have appeared
to date.”

The major portion of the monograph is devoted to Besner’s reading of
the text, which is organized according to the chapters/sections of the
fiction. Besner’s critical approach is difficult to characterize, as
it is multithematic with a focus on form, and on the reading of fiction
as a self-reflexive act. Besner explores the multiplicity of stories in
Lives, emphasizing the contemporary nature of the fiction, which
“begins to look in towards its own nature, its own workings and
significance as a fiction, just as much as it looks out towards the
stages of Del’s experiences growing up in Jubilee.” As he surveys
the text, Besner offers critical comments that are engaging and often

This monograph will be primarily useful as a guide and resource book
for literature students at junior college and undergraduate levels, as
well as being something of a touchstone for the more seasoned critic.


Besner, Neil K., “Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: A Reader's Guide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,