Vale Alice Munro, Canadian author, Nobel Laureate

Cecile McGuire

As a Canadian Australian, Cecile McGuire felt a particular kind of grief on hearing of the death of her most cherished author.

When I first came to Australia from Canada, I couldn’t shake the feeling I experienced every year growing up, when the new school year began in September.

In the Canadian fall, everything felt fresh and new and possible.

I always associated that feeling, you see, with fall weather: that crispness in the air as the leaves change colour before they drop, heralding that the whiteness of winter, of snowbanks and ice, was not far away.

Eventually I began to associate that feeling with Brisbane’s summer, when Jacarandas and Poincianas bloom and the calendar year ends along with the school year, before an actual New Year starts the cycle all over again.

I still feel that fresh new feeling sometimes, but now it’s not in September, but rather May or June, when the glorious weather that is Brisbane winter arrives.

It’s the crisp sunny days with no humidity and wonderfully cool nights that make you want to wear a jumper and sleep under a doona.

So it felt very Canadian to wake up on a May morning to the devastating news of the passing of Alice Munro, Canada’s Nobel Laureate in Literature and one of a small number of women writers to win the prize.

A friend asks me which of her books was my favourite and I immediately responded: ‘all of them’!

Then I reflect and start with The Lives of Girls and Women, as that’s how it actually began for me, the first of her books that I read.

I tell my friend it’s so evocative, the memory of me reading that book as a teenager, on the verge of becoming a young woman.

I went on to read and reread all of Alice Munro’s books. I would buy the newest book as soon as it was published in Australia.

In fact, many years ago when I was planning a major renovation to my house, it was only as I packed up my books that I realised I actually had two copies of one of Munro’s books.

I’d bought it in hardcover when it was first released, then bought it in paperback too.

If you’ve never left the place where you grew up, you may not understand how powerful it is to read words that invoke the landscape of your childhood when you’ve travelled miles and years away from that place.

I cried the morning I read the news of Alice Munro’s passing and kept tearing up as I shared the news with family and friends, here in Australia and in Canada.

Tears came again as I read tributes to Munro on the CBC News website and yes even X where I’d first read the news.

Hey, Margaret Atwood is still tweeting!

My books are all packed up again, so I can’t go to my bookcase to take out my Alice Munro books and rifle through the pages of my favourite stories.

Still, remembered lines have drifted in and out of my consciousness since I heard the news of her death.

Alice Munro was 92 and she’d lived a good long life.

She said before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013 that she was ‘probably not going to write anymore’.

I am so thankful for all the words Munro wrote and for feeling Canada so much this month as the air turns cool and crisp in Brisbane, Australia.

PHOTO at top of story supplied by Penguin Random House.

Author

  • Cecile McGuire

    Cecile McGuire is a CanAussie who loves Australian and Canadian writers equally. She is a proud member of The Pineapple Management Committee.

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