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The View from Castle Rock

Cover of The View from Castle Rock

The View from Castle Rock

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE® IN LITERATURE 2013

Alice Munro mines her rich family background, melding it with her own experiences and the transforming power of her brilliant imagination, to create perhaps her most powerful and personal collection yet.

A young boy, taken to Edinburgh's Castle Rock to look across the sea to America, catches a glimpse of his father's dream. Scottish immigrants experience love and loss on a journey that leads them to rural Ontario. Wives, mothers, fathers, and children move through uncertainty, ambivalence, and contemplation in these stories of hopes, adversity, and wonder. The View from Castle Rock reveals what is most essential in Munro's art: her compassionate understanding of ordinary lives.



From the Trade Paperback edition.

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE® IN LITERATURE 2013

Alice Munro mines her rich family background, melding it with her own experiences and the transforming power of her brilliant imagination, to create perhaps her most powerful and personal collection yet.

A young boy, taken to Edinburgh's Castle Rock to look across the sea to America, catches a glimpse of his father's dream. Scottish immigrants experience love and loss on a journey that leads them to rural Ontario. Wives, mothers, fathers, and children move through uncertainty, ambivalence, and contemplation in these stories of hopes, adversity, and wonder. The View from Castle Rock reveals what is most essential in Munro's art: her compassionate understanding of ordinary lives.



From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • From the book No AdvantagesThis parish possesses no advantages. Upon the hills the soil is in many places mossy and fit for nothing. The air in general is moist. This is occasioned by the height of the hills which continually attract the clouds and the vapour that is continually exhaled from the mossy ground . . . The nearest market town is fifteen miles away and the roads so deep as to be almost impassable. The snow also at times is a great inconvenience, often for many months we can have no intercourse with mankind. And a great disadvantage is the want of bridges so that the traveller is obstructed when the waters are swelled . . . Barley oats and potatoes are the only crops raised. Wheat rye turnips and cabbage are never attempted . . .

    There are ten proprietors of land in this parish: none of them resides in it.

    Contribution by the Minister of Ettrick Parish, in the county of Selkirk, to the Statistical Account of Scotland, 1799



    The Ettrick Valley lies about fifty miles due south of Edinburgh, and thirty or so miles north of the English border, which runs close to the wall Hadrian built to keep out the wild people from the north. The Romans pushed farther, and built some sort of fortifications called Antonine's Wall between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but those did not last long. The land between the two walls has been occupied for a long time by a mix of people--Celtic people, some of whom came from Ireland and were actually called Scots, Anglo-Saxons from the south, Norse from across the North Sea, and possibly some leftover Picts as well.

    The high stony farm where my family lived for some time in the Ettrick Valley was called Far-Hope. The word hope, as used in the local geography, is an old word, a Norse word--Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Gaelic words being all mixed up together in that part of the country, as you would expect, with some old Brythonic thrown in to indicate an early Welsh presence. Hope means a bay, not a bay filled with water but with land, partly enclosed by hills, which in this case are the high bare hills, the near mountains of the Southern Uplands. The Black Knowe, Bodesbeck Law, Ettrick Pen--there you have the three big hills, with the word hill in three languages. Some of these hills are now being reforested, with plantations of Sitka spruce, but in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they would have been bare, or mostly bare--the great Forest of Ettrick, the hunting grounds of the Kings of Scotland, having been cut down and turned into pasture or waste heath a century or two before.

    The height of land above Far-Hope, which stands right at the end of the valley, is the spine of Scotland, marking the division of the waters that flow to the west into the Solway Firth and the Atlantic Ocean, from those that flow east into the North Sea. Within ten miles to the north is the country's most famous waterfall, the Grey Mare's Tail. Five miles from Moffat, which would be the market town to those living at the valley head, is the Devil's Beef Tub, a great cleft in the hills believed to be the hiding place for stolen cattle--English cattle, that is, taken by the reivers in the lawless sixteenth century. In the lower Ettrick Valley was Aikwood, the home of Michael Scott, the philosopher and wizard of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, who appears in Dante's Inferno. And if that were not enough, William Wallace, the guerrilla hero of the Scots, is said to have hidden out here from the English, and there is a story of Merlin--Merlin--being hunted down and...
About the Author-
  • Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published thirteen collections of stories as well as a novel, Lives of Girls and Women, and two volumes of Selected Stories. During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including three of Canada's Governor General's Literary Awards and two of its Giller Prizes, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the Lannan Literary Award, England's W. H. Smith Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. In 2013 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, Granta, and other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in Clinton, Ontario, near Lake Huron.



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