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Island: The Complete Stories Paperback

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393341186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393341188
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #342,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on March 18 2002
Format: Paperback
Alistair MacLeod writes of isolation and loneliness and loss. His characters are often solitary people, yet they are solitary people with a strong sense of both history and community...the community of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
MacLeod's characters are a dying breed, people we don't see many of these days: coal miners, fishermen, farmers, lighthouse keepers. They are a people held together by a strong Gaelic thread; they speak Gaelic, sing Gaelic songs and live lives upheld and reinforced by strong Gaelic traditions. They are a rural people and they very much prefer things to stay the way they have been.
But, as we all know, things never stay the way they have been. MacLeod's rural characters are the older ones. The younger ones have left the lonely farms of Cape Breton to work and study in the cities. The tourists are moving in, and, finding the Cape Breton landscape "unspoiled," and, therefore, very much to their liking, they are spoiling and defiling it, taking the first steps toward turning it into the very thing from which they wish to escape.
In "Island," MacLeod, writes mainly of the modern, city-wise, young people who come home to visit the dying world from which they wanted to escape. What they find is a world and a culture that will not die, that refuses to be obliterated. "The Closing Down of Summer" is a story that illustrates this persistence of the past perfectly.
MacLeod is at his best in this collection of stories. His prose is emotional but never maudlin, precise but never terse and it possesses a rhythm so Gaelic it can't fail to strike a chord of recognition in anyone who is in the least bit familiar with Cape Breton and its inhabitants.
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Format: Hardcover
I found the stories in Alistair MacLeod's Island to be beautifully moving--some incredibly powerful, others merely just very good. These are contemplative stories and because they all deal with similar underlying topics (but altogether different stories)--the return to the rural, the countryside's slow adaptation to change, youth contrasted with age--it makes sense to read these stories slowly, over several weeks. I believe reading these quickly may cause them to blend together, something you don't want to do because each story has its unique original beauty. MacLeod writes very carefully and his prose is very, I don't know, almost heavy, very powerful. You have to be in a contemplative mood, I believe, to appreciate these stories. This is not a collection for that cross country plane ride, or your week at the beach. Rather, these are stories to be savored slowly, in peace and quiet. Well done.
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Format: Hardcover
I needed to read these stories after finding MacLeod's No Great Mischief. His scene is Cape Breton. His times are those of his unfolding generations of Scots. His style is idiosycratic. He can make you believe that he was there, whenever the time, whoever the family, whatever the cameo experience.
MacLeod uses the voices of generations of Canadians who always remember that they are Scots. They are Scottish even if they have never seen their country or never even know just where their forebears belonged.
The stories are simple. In the Golden Gift of Grey, eighteen year old Jesse pockets his first pool balls and his first winning dollars. Macleod makes scenes like this live through the smells of the bar, its men's washroom and the gyrations of the dancer. The edge of Jesse's tension is seen through the limp, damp dollar notes of his winnings, crammed in a ball in his pockets. The twist to end the story is satisfying, if predictable.
Some of the stories are tough and tell of a harsh life. Again MacLeod evokes his scenes through heat and cold, rain and hail and snow and through light and dark. His men can be mean and cautious, but also complicated and kind, especially the many grandfathers. In To Everything There is a Season, Macleod is able to build a tension in a little story about a son's homecoming at Christmas that would do justice to a suspense story.
Macleod is a craftsman writer. He shows his characters through their scenes rather than through descriptive narrative about personality. These are very satisfying stories and I have to say that I hunger for more of the tales of Cape Breton from this writer.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the wise Elders in the story says. "Music is the lubricant of the poor all over the world. In all the different languages." Books like these and the people who write them provide the same comfort, and encouragement, and are a gift for readers to continue reading when there seems to be less writing of this caliber produced. The quote from the first paragraph is actually from Mr. Alistair MacLeod's work, "No Great Mischief". It was the first novel he wrote and was one of the finest reading experiences in the last several years for me. This collection of short stories was published in 2 separate books prior to his novel, and they distinguished him as one of the great talents writing today.
These stories may indeed be short when measured by the page; however any given piece that you care to choose is essentially faultless. The concept of, "second sight", is a subject that arises in some of these tales, and while Mr. MacLeod may not have that particular brand of vision, he like any great writer does see things differently than most people perceive them. And his sensitivity to detail extends to the other senses, and then he is able to place it upon pages for the rest of us to enjoy. He engages the reader on every level with the environment he creates, the sounds, and the very texture of the places he brings you to. This is the kind of work that you get so deeply involved with that you think about these people as real, as real as the names of the places they live, work, and die that appear on a map.
I don't believe there is one transcendent theme he is presenting with these stories, there is far too much involved in each to place a label on them all. The climate is as vital as many of his characters, and he imbues it with personality that is nearly sentient.
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