Island : The Collected Stories

by Alistair MacLeod

Paperback, 2001




Toronto : Emblem Editions, 2001.


Fiction. Short Stories. HTML: Winner of the PEN/Malamud Award: "The genius of his stories is to render his fictional world as timeless."�??Colm TóibínThe sixteen exquisitely crafted stories in Island prove Alistair MacLeod to be a master. Quietly, precisely, he has created a body of work that is among the greatest to appear in English in the last fifty years. A book-besotted patriarch releases his only son from the obligations of the sea. A father provokes his young son to violence when he reluctantly sells the family horse. A passionate girl who grows up on a nearly deserted island turns into an ever-wistful woman when her one true love is felled by a logging accident. A dying young man listens to his grandmother play the old Gaelic songs on her ancient violin as they both fend off the inevitable. The events that propel MacLeod's stories convince us of the importance of tradition, the beauty of the landscape, and the necessity of memor… (more)

Media reviews

There is something immensely reassuring about MacLeod's late-career success. Good writing, it seems, will out. Talent like his needs no hype. Nor need it deal with metropolitan or modishly high-concept themes. His narrative technique is deceptively simple. Judging by the texture of his prose and
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the sparseness of his output, he is a craftsman who patiently whittles and winnows until he has the perfectly shaped literary object.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member -Cee-
If you love reading about the sea and the hardscrabble life of islanders on the Atlantic coast of Canada, this book will play beautiful music deep in your heart. At first I had a little trouble immersing myself in a different culture. Ultimately, due to MacLeod’s amazing ability to bare the human
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soul, it all felt familiar and really moved me. Family strength and loyalty in the grip of life’s struggle to exist and inevitable loss permeate this woven tapestry of somewhat related short stories.

Presented in chronological progression, as written by MacLeod, this collection creates a vivid picture of Cape Breton’s generations, occupations, landscapes and sea. The focus of narration moves from a youthful perspective at the beginning of the book to the ponderings of old age at the end. This may have been intentional or just the advancing age of the author as he wrote the stories. At any rate, it gives the book a cohesiveness and sense of unfolding wisdom.

While this book is of sadness, isolation, hidden emotions and hardship it is written with strength of spirit and pride of ancestry. MacLeod writes with an open honesty and aching beauty of the inner and outer landscapes of human emotions and nature’s unforgiving dominance in these northern islands. Love takes many shapes; sustains many relationships and lonely souls. Those who are sensitive to death and loss may find this book a challenge. Or, like myself, may discover memorable gems of rare beauty in MacLeod’s work.
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LibraryThing member bobprior
Brilliant short stories, finely crafted with not a single wasted word. Beautifully captures the complex lives and relationships of seemingly simple people living difficult lives in a stark landscape.
LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
Alistair MacLeod, the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia writer who won the IMPAC award for the splendid book, NO GREAT MISCHIEF, is perhaps best known, at least in Canada, for his short stories.

MacLeod has been called the bard of Cape Breton, where he was raised and where each of the sixteen stories in
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this collection are set. He captures both the atmosphere of the landscape and the tone of the language perfectly. Some of the stories build slowly, and were it not for the perfection of the prose perhaps one might get restless, but it's deceptive, for so much is going on just beneath the surface, just at the edges of things -- much as it does in real life. The interior world of MacLeod's characters holds center stage -- their desires, fears, regrets, sorrows, their bafflement, excitement and grief. Like Flannery O'Connor and her small Southern town, MacLeod has found every great mystery and passion within the confines of poverty-stricken fishing villages and mining towns.

It is astonishing to me how timeless these stories are. They seem to exist utterly outside of contemporary life, and yet are undeniably relevant in every way that matters.

Not only are there invaluable lessons for emerging writers between these covers, there are lessons for anyone interested in the workings of the human heart.
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LibraryThing member mahallett
absolutely wonderful. he loves cape breton, the land, the people, the language, and misses the old ways.
LibraryThing member abycats
I loved these stories because they tell of a particular place and time in beautiful language. MacLeod is know more for books like "Guns of Navarone" but this volume includes his heart. Highly recommended, but read (please) one story at a time to get the most complete satisfaction.
LibraryThing member Highlander99
A lyrical and often heartbreaking collection of short stories about the people of Cape Breton, whether they be coal miners, fishermen or farmers. Wonderfully written, I strongly recommend this book to all.
LibraryThing member LilMiriam
An amazing and moving work. It will leave you wanting more of Alistair MacLeod. These stories are snapshots of life that you will never forget.
LibraryThing member Iudita
This book is a wonderful collection of short stories based mostly in Cape Breton. Each and every story is beautifully written. MacLeod is a gifted writer who has a gentle sincere style that sets the mood and the scene so well, that you feel as though you lived the experience yourself. There are no
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bells and whistles to his writing...just his voice, which pulls you right into the hearts and lives of the people of the East coast. I loved the characters, I loved the places and I loved the stories. I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy reading Canadian literature.
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LibraryThing member canread
The beautiful prose flows perfectly in these stories of a changing culture, the educated sons of fishermen, miners and farmers, and the burden they carry, that of the transitional ones who by doing their father's wishes will end their kind.
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
You would be hard pressed to find a collection of short stories covering a span of more than thirty years with more consistent quality, intensity, burnished emotion, and progression, as the author develops and hones a talent that was more than evident even in his first published story. Alistair
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MacLeod mines a seam that is as remarkable for its variety as for its purity. The heirs of the Scottish highland clearances made their way to Cape Breton and generations on retain both the Gaelic and their identity through their labour and their commitment to family. Story after story recounts the bonds between fathers and sons (or daughters) and, especially, the generations overlapping as grandfathers and great-grandfathers are considered and their stories are mingled with those of their descendants.

This collection is both usefully and unfortunately organized chronically, with the dates of original publication for each story made prominent. That is useful because the reader instantly sees that even in MacLeod’s first published story, “The Boat”, he is already tremendously accomplished. But you also see that over the years his writing continues to evolve. The later stories, such as “Vision” or “Island”, are considerably more complex narratively. Yet they retain the immediacy of the “told” stories that typify MacLeod’s earlier efforts. It is slightly unfortunate, on the other hand, to have the chronology front and centre because without it I think a reader might be even more impressed at the quality of each and every story. There is hardly a sense in which this seems to be a collection of an author over the course of his career and not just a snapshot at a single remarkably productive point. But at some point you may well begin wondering what else was happening in the north american short story field during the latter third of the 20th century, and that might surprise you in comparison to what MacLeod was writing.

In some ways these stories partake of an older mode of story telling. Perhaps it is the “personal tale” aspect of so many of them, or the prominence of animals, especially dogs, or the concentration upon marriage, birth, and death. Certainly they come across as rooted in the land (or at times the sea). And that may mark them as particularly Canadian (though you might also catch a hint of Jack London in some). However, when you read them you will find yourself so tightly bound to the principal characters and what happens to them that you won’t really have room for such thoughts. Just as well, because the stories themselves are all you really need. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member jimnicol
Good stuff...MacLeod is a little too lyrical for my tastes sometimes, but he's a fine writer.
LibraryThing member charlie68
A good not great series of short stories. Really gets into life and culture of Cape Breton, the fishing and the mining and the changing dynamic of this region. The writing varies from great to flat, but still manages to convey the stories adequately.
LibraryThing member stef7sa
Varying in quality but repetitious in content and atmosphere these stories portray the hardships of life as a miner or fisher on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. The better stories bring in some fictional drama instead of being mere biographical tales.



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