Alice Munro
BornAlice Ann Laidlaw
(1931-07-10) 10 July 1931 (age 92)
Wingham, Ontario, Canada
OccupationShort-story writer
Alma materThe University of Western Ontario
GenreShort stories, Realism, Southern Ontario Gothic
Notable awardsGovernor General's Award (1968, 1978, 1986)
Giller Prize (1998, 2004)
Man Booker International Prize (2009)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2013)
James Munro
(m. 1951; div. 1972)
Gerald Fremlin
(m. 1976; died 2013)

Alice Ann Munro (/mənˈr/; née Laidlaw /ˈldlɔː/; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian short story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Munro's work has been described as revolutionizing the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time.[1] Her stories have been said to "embed more than announce, reveal more than parade."[2]

Munro's fiction is most often set in her native Huron County in southwestern Ontario.[3] Her stories explore human complexities in an uncomplicated prose style.[4] Munro's writing has established her as "one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction", or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, "our Chekhov."[5] Munro has received many literary accolades, including the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as "master of the contemporary short story",[6] and the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work. She is also a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction, and received the Writers' Trust of Canada's 1996 Marian Engel Award and the 2004 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Runaway.[6][7][8][9]

Early life and education

Munro was born Alice Ann Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario. Her father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, was a fox and mink farmer,[10] and later turned to turkey farming.[11] Her mother, Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), was a schoolteacher. She is of Irish and Scottish descent; her father is a descendant of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd.[12]

Munro began writing as a teenager, publishing her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow", in 1950 while studying English and journalism at the University of Western Ontario on a two-year scholarship.[13][14] During this period she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker, and a library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, where she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry fellow student James Munro. They moved to Dundarave, West Vancouver, for James's job in a department store. In 1963, the couple moved to Victoria, where they opened Munro's Books, which still operates.


Munro's highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), won the Governor General's Award, then Canada's highest literary prize.[15] That success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories. In 1978, Munro's collection of interlinked stories Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose in the United States). This book earned Munro a second Governor General's Literary Award.[16] From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia for public appearances and readings. In 1980 Munro held the position of writer in residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland.

From the 1980s to 2012, Munro published a short-story collection at least once every four years. First versions of Munro's stories have appeared in journals such as The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Harper's Magazine, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Narrative Magazine, and The Paris Review. Her collections have been translated into 13 languages.[17] On 10 October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, cited as a "master of the contemporary short story".[6][7][18] She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.[19]

Munro is noted for her longtime association with editor and publisher Douglas Gibson.[20] When Gibson left Macmillan of Canada in 1986 to launch the Douglas Gibson Books imprint at McClelland and Stewart, Munro returned the advance Macmillan had already paid her for The Progress of Love so that she could follow Gibson to the new company.[21] Munro and Gibson have retained their professional association ever since; when Gibson published his memoirs in 2011, Munro wrote the introduction, and to this day Gibson often makes public appearances on Munro's behalf when her health prevents her from appearing personally.[22]

Almost 20 of Munro's works have been made available for free on the web, in most cases only the first versions.[23] From the period before 2003, 16 stories have been included in Munro's own compilations more than twice, with two of her works scoring four republications: "Carried Away" and "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage".[24]

Film adaptations of Munro's short stories have included Martha, Ruth and Edie (1988), Edge of Madness (2002), Away from Her (2006), Hateship, Loveship (2013) and Julieta (2016).


Many of Munro's stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of her fiction's features. Asked after she won the Nobel Prize, "What can be so interesting in describing small town Canadian life?" Munro replied, "You just have to be there."[25] Another feature is an omniscient narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro's small-town settings to writers from the rural American South. As in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Munro's characters often confront deep-rooted customs and traditions, but her characters' reactions are generally less intense than their Southern counterparts'. Her male characters tend to capture the essence of the everyman, while her female characters are more complex. Much of Munro's work exemplifies the Southern Ontario Gothic literary genre.[26]

Munro's work is often compared with the great short-story writers. In her stories, as in Chekhov's, plot is secondary and "little happens". As in Chekhov, Garan Holcombe says, "All is based on the epiphanic moment, the sudden enlightenment, the concise, subtle, revelatory detail." Munro's work deals with "love and work, and the failings of both. She shares Chekhov's obsession with time and our much-lamented inability to delay or prevent its relentless movement forward."[27]

A frequent theme of her work, particularly in her early stories, has been the dilemmas of a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her family and her small hometown. In recent work such as Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) and Runaway (2004) she has shifted her focus to the travails of middle age, women alone, and the elderly. Her characters often experience a revelation that sheds light on, and gives meaning to, an event.

Munro's prose reveals the ambiguities of life: "ironic and serious at the same time," "mottoes of godliness and honor and flaming bigotry," "special, useless knowledge," "tones of shrill and happy outrage," "the bad taste, the heartlessness, the joy of it." Her style juxtaposes the fantastic and the ordinary, with each undercutting the other in ways that simply and effortlessly evoke life.[28] Robert Thacker wrote:

Munro's writing creates ... an empathetic union among readers, critics most apparent among them. We are drawn to her writing by its verisimilitude – not of mimesis, so-called and ... 'realism' – but rather the feeling of being itself ... of just being a human being."[29]

Many critics have written that Munro's stories often have the emotional and literary depth of novels. Some have asked whether Munro actually writes short stories or novels. Alex Keegan, writing in Eclectica, gave a simple answer: "Who cares? In most Munro stories there is as much as in many novels."[30]

Research on Munro's work has been undertaken since the early 1970s, with the first PhD thesis published in 1972.[31] The first book-length volume collecting the papers presented at the University of Waterloo first conference on her work was published in 1984, The Art of Alice Munro: Saying the Unsayable.[32] In 2003/2004, the journal Open Letter. Canadian quarterly review of writing and sources published 14 contributions on Munro's work. In autumn 2010, the Journal of the Short Story in English (JSSE)/Les cahiers de la nouvelle dedicated a special issue to Munro, and in May 2012 an issue of the journal Narrative focussed on a single story by Munro, "Passion" (2004), with an introduction, summary of the story, and five analytical essays.[32]

Creating new versions

Munro publishes variant versions of her stories, sometimes within a short span of time. Her stories "Save the Reaper" and "Passion" came out in two different versions in the same year, in 1998 and 2004 respectively. Two other stories were republished in a variant versions about 30 years apart, "Home" (1974/2006/2014) and "Wood" (1980/2009).[33]

In 2006 Ann Close and Lisa Dickler Awano reported that Munro had not wanted to reread the galleys of Runaway (2004): "No, because I'll rewrite the stories." In their symposium contribution An Appreciation of Alice Munro they say that of her story "Powers", for example, Munro did eight versions in all.[34]

Section variants of "Wood".

Awano writes that "Wood" is a good example of how Munro, "a tireless self-editor",[35] rewrites and revises a story, in this case returning to it for a second publication nearly 30 years later, revising characterizations, themes and perspectives, as well as rhythmic syllables, a conjunction or a punctuation mark. The characters change, too. Inferring from the perspective they take on things, they are middle-age in 1980, and in 2009 they are older. Awano perceives a heightened lyricism brought about not least by the poetic precision of the revision Munro undertakes.[35] The 2009 version comprises eight sections to the 1980 version's three, and has a new ending. Awano writes that Munro literally "refinishes" the first take on the story with an ambiguity characteristic of Munro's endings, and that Munro reimagines her stories throughout her work a variety of ways.[35]

Several stories were republished with considerable variation as to which content goes into which section. This can be seen, for example, in "Home", "The Progress of Love", "What Do You Want to Know For?", "The Children Stay", "Save the Reaper", "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", "Passion", "The View From Castle Rock", "Wenlock Edge", and "Deep-Holes".

Personal life

She married James Munro in 1951. Their daughters Sheila, Catherine, and Jenny were born in 1953, 1955, and 1957, respectively; Catherine died the day of her birth due to the lack of functioning kidneys.[36]

In 1963, the Munros moved to Victoria, where they opened Munro's Books, a popular bookstore still in business. In 1966, their daughter Andrea was born. Alice and James Munro divorced in 1972.

Munro returned to Ontario to become writer in residence at the University of Western Ontario, and in 1976 received an honorary LLD from the institution. In 1976, she married Gerald Fremlin, a cartographer and geographer she met in her university days.[13] The couple moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario, and later to a house in Clinton, where Fremlin died on 17 April 2013, aged 88.[37] Munro and Fremlin also owned a home in Comox, British Columbia.[17]

At a Toronto appearance in October 2009, Munro indicated that she had received treatment for cancer and for a heart condition requiring coronary-artery bypass surgery.[38]

In 2002, Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro.[39]


Main article: List of short stories by Alice Munro

Original short-story collections

Short-story compilations

Selected awards and honours




  1. ^ Bosman, Julie (10 October 2013). "Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  2. ^ W. H. New. "Literature in English". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  3. ^ Marchand, P. (29 August 2009). "Open Book: Philip Marchand on Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro". The National Post. Retrieved 5 September 2009.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Meyer, M. "Alice Munro". Meyer Literature. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  5. ^ Merkin, Daphne (24 October 2004). "Northern Exposures". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 – Press Release" (PDF). 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b Bosman, Julie (10 October 2013). "Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Alice Munro wins Man Booker International prize". The Guardian. 27 May 2009.
  9. ^ a b "Past Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award Winners". Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  10. ^ Jeanne McCulloch; Mona Simpson (Summer 1994). "The Art of Fiction No. 137". The Paris Review. No. 131. ISSN 0031-2037. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  11. ^ Gaunce, Julia, Suzette Mayr, Don LePan, Marjorie Mather, and Bryanne Miller, eds. "Alice Munro." The Broadview Anthology of Short Fiction. 2nd ed. Buffalo, NY: Broadview Press, 2012.
  12. ^ Taylor, Catherine (10 October 2013). "For Alice Munro, small is beautiful". Archived from the original on 12 January 2022 – via
  13. ^ a b Jason Winders (10 October 2013). "Alice Munro, LLD'76, wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature". Western News. The University of Western Ontario.
  14. ^ "Canada's Alice Munro, 'master' of short stories, wins Nobel Prize in literature". CNN. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Past GG Winners 1968". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Past GG Winners 1978". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  17. ^ a b Preface. Dance of the Happy Shades. Alice Munro. First Vintage contemporaries Edition, August 1998. ISBN 0-679-78151-X Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York City.
  18. ^ "Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for Literature". BBC News. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  19. ^ Saul Bellow, the 1976 laureate, was born in Canada, but he moved to the United States at age nine and became a US citizen at twenty-six.
  20. ^ Panofsky, Ruth (2012). The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-9877-1.
  21. ^ "Munro follows publisher Gibson from Macmillan". Toronto Star, 30 April 1986.
  22. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (11 October 2013). "Alice Munro unlikely to come out of retirement following Nobel win". CTVNews. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  23. ^ Which of the stories have free Web versions.
  24. ^ For further details, see List of short stories by Alice Munro.
  25. ^ Hall, Linda (26 October 2017). "What's the best way to find fans of Alice Munro? Start quoting her work". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  26. ^ Susanne Becker, Gothic Forms of Feminine Fictions. Manchester University Press, 1999.
  27. ^ Holcombe, Garan (2005). "Alice Munro". Contemporary Writers. London: British Arts Council. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
  28. ^ Hoy, Helen (1980). "Dull, Simple, Amazing and Unfathomable: Paradox and Double Vision In Alice Munro's Fiction". Studies in Canadian Literature. University of New Brunswick. 5 (1). Archived from the original on 14 September 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
  29. ^ Thacker, Robert (1998) Review of Some other reality: Alice Munro's Something I've been Meaning to Tell You, by Louis K. MacKendrick. Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 1998.
  30. ^ Keegan, Alex (August–September 1998). "Munro: The Short Answer". Eclectica. 2 (5). Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
  31. ^ Struthers, J. R. (Tim) (1981). "Some Highly Subversive Activities: A Brief Polemic and a Checklist of Works on Alice Munro". Studies in Canadian Literature. 6 (1). ISSN 1718-7850.
  32. ^ a b Ventura, Héliane (Autumn 2010). "Introduction to Special issue: The Short Stories of Alice Munro". Journal of the Short Story in English. Les Cahiers de la nouvelle (55).
  33. ^ For details please see List of short stories by Alice Munro
  34. ^ An Appreciation of Alice Munro, by Ann Close and Lisa Dickler Awano, Compiler and Editor. In: The Virginia Quarterly Review. VQR Symposium on Alice Munro. Summer 2006, pp. 102–105.
  35. ^ a b c Lisa Dickler Awano, Kindling The Creative Fire: Alice Munro's Two Versions of "Wood", New Haven Review, 30 May 2012.
  36. ^ Thacker, Robert (2014). "Alice Munro – Biographical". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Gerald Fremlin (obituary)". Clinton News-Record. April 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  38. ^ The Canadian Press (22 October 2009). "Alice Munro reveals cancer fight". CBC News. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  39. ^ Harrison, Kathryn (16 June 2002). "Go Ask Alice". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  40. ^ a b Besner, Neil K., "Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: A Reader's Guide" (Toronto: ECW Press), 1990
  41. ^ See List of short stories by Alice Munro
  42. ^ "Past Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize Winners". Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  43. ^ "Trillium Book Award Winners". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  44. ^ "Medal Day History". MacDowell Colony. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  45. ^ The Booker Prize Foundation "Alice Munro wins 2009 Man Booker International Prize." Archived 2 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ "ARCHIVED – Canada Gazette – GOVERNMENT HOUSE". 9 November 2012. Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  47. ^ "Mint releases silver coin to honour Alice Munro's Nobel win". The Globe and Mail. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  48. ^ "Alice Munro". 10 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.

Further reading

  • Atwood, Margaret et al. "Appreciations of Alice Munro." Virginia Quarterly Review 82.3 (Summer 2006): 91–107. Interviews with various authors (Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Michael Cunningham, Charles McGrath, Daniel Menaker and others) presented in first-person essay format
  • Awano, Lisa Dickler. "Kindling The Creative Fire: Alice Munro's Two Versions of 'Wood.'" New Haven Review (30 May 2012). Examining overall themes in Alice Munro's fiction through a study of her two versions of "Wood."
  • Awano, Lisa Dickler. "Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness." Virginia Quarterly Review (22 October 2010). Long-form book review of Too Much Happiness in the context of Alice Munro's canon.
  • Besner, Neil Kalman. Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: a reader's guide. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1990)
  • Blodgett, E. D. Alice Munro. (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988)
  • Buchholtz, Miroslawa (ed.). Alice Munro. Understanding, Adapting, Teaching (Springer International Publishing, 2016)
  • Carrington, Ildikó de Papp. Controlling the Uncontrollable: the fiction of Alice Munro. (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989)
  • Carscallen, James. The Other Country: patterns in the writing of Alice Munro. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1993)
  • Cox, Alisa. Alice Munro. (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2004)
  • Dahlie, Hallvard. Alice Munro and Her Works. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1984)
  • Davey, Frank. 'Class, Family Furnishings, and Munro's Early Stories.' In Ventura and Conde. 79–88.
  • de Papp Carrington, Ildiko."What's in a Title?: Alice Munro's 'Carried Away.'" Studies in Short Fiction. 20.4 (Fall 1993): 555.
  • Dolnick, Ben. "A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro" The Millions (5 July 2012)
  • Elliott, Gayle. "A Different Track: Feminist meta-narrative in Alice Munro's 'Friend of My Youth.'" Journal of Modern Literature. 20.1 (Summer 1996): 75.
  • Fowler, Rowena. "The Art of Alice Munro: The Beggar Maid and Lives of Girls and Women." Critique. 25.4 (Summer 1984): 189.
  • Garson, Marjorie. "Alice Munro and Charlotte Bronte." University of Toronto Quarterly 69.4 (Fall 2000): 783.
  • Genoways, Ted. "Ordinary Outsiders." Virginia Quarterly Review 82.3 (Summer 2006): 80–81.
  • Gibson, Douglas. Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others. (ECW Press, 2011.) Excerpt.
  • Gittings, Christopher E.. "Constructing a Scots-Canadian Ground: Family history and cultural translation in Alice Munro." Studies in Short Fiction 34.1 (Winter 1997): 27
  • Hebel, Ajay. The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's discourse of absence. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994)
  • Hiscock, Andrew. "Longing for a Human Climate: Alice Munro's 'Friend of My Youth' and the culture of loss." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 32.2 (1997): 18.
  • Hooper, Brad The Fiction of Alice Munro: An Appreciation (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008), ISBN 978-0-275-99121-0
  • Houston, Pam. "A Hopeful Sign: The making of metonymic meaning in Munro's 'Meneseteung.'" Kenyon Review 14.4 (Fall 1992): 79.
  • Howells, Coral Ann. Alice Munro. (New York: Manchester University Press, 1998), ISBN 978-0-7190-4558-5
  • Hoy, H. "'Dull, Simple, Amazing and Unfathomable': Paradox and Double Vision In Alice Munro's Fiction." Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne, Volume 5.1. (1980).
  • Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. 'Alice Munro's Two Secrets.' In Ventura and Conde. 25–37.
  • Levene, Mark. "It Was About Vanishing: A Glimpse of Alice Munro's Stories." University of Toronto Quarterly 68.4 (Fall 1999): 841.
  • Lorre-Johnston,Christine, and Eleonora Rao, eds. Space and Place in Alice Munro's Fiction: "A Book with Maps in It." Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018.ISBN 978-1-64014-020-2[1].
  • Lynch, Gerald. "No Honey, I'm Home." Canadian Literature 160 (Spring 1999): 73.
  • MacKendrick, Louis King. Some Other Reality: Alice Munro's Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1993)
  • Martin, W.R. Alice Munro: paradox and parallel. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1987)
  • Mazur, Carol and Moulder, Cathy. Alice Munro: An Annotated Bibliography of Works and Criticism. (Toronto: Scarecrow Press, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8108-5924-1
  • McCaig, JoAnn. Reading In: Alice Munro's archives. (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002)
  • Miller, Judith, ed. The Art of Alice Munro: saying the unsayable: papers from the Waterloo conference. (Waterloo: Waterloo Press, 1984)
  • Munro, Sheila. Lives of Mother and Daughters: growing up with Alice Munro. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001)
  • Murray, Jennifer. Reading Alice Munro with Jacques Lacan. (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016)
  • Pfaus, B. Alice Munro. (Ottawa: Golden Dog Press, 1984.)
  • Rasporich, Beverly Jean. Dance of the Sexes: art and gender in the fiction of Alice Munro. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1990)
  • Redekop, Magdalene. Mothers and Other Clowns: the stories of Alice Munro. (New York: Routledge, 1992)
  • Ross, Catherine Sheldrick. Alice Munro: a double life. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1992.)
  • Simpson, Mona. A Quiet Genius The Atlantic. (December 2001)
  • Smythe, Karen E. Figuring Grief: Gallant, Munro and the poetics of elegy. (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992)
  • Somacarrera, Pilar. A Spanish Passion for the Canadian Short Story: Reader Responses to Alice Munro's Fiction in Web 2.0 Open Access, in: Made in Canada, Read in Spain: Essays on the Translation and Circulation of English-Canadian Literature Open Access, edited by Pilar Somacarrera, de Gruyter, Berlin 2013, p. 129–144, ISBN 978-83-7656-017-5
  • Steele, Apollonia and Tener, Jean F., editors. The Alice Munro Papers: Second Accession. (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1987)
  • Tausky, Thomas E. Biocritical Essay. The University of Calgary Library Special Collections (1986)
  • Thacker, Robert. Alice Munro: writing her lives: a biography. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2005)
  • Thacker, Robert. Ed. The Rest of the Story: critical essays on Alice Munro. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1999)
  • Ventura, Héliane, and Mary Condé, eds. Alice Munro. Open Letter 11:9 (Fall-Winter 2003-4). ISSN 0048-1939. Proceedings of the Alice Munro conference L'écriture du secret/Writing Secrets, Université d'Orléans, 2003.