CBC Digital Archives

Alice Munro: Memories and terrible regrets

A master of the short story, Alice Munro is one of Canada's most acclaimed literary treasures. With characters and settings that often mirror her own background and memories, her unadorned yet emotionally searing stories have enthralled readers since her first collection was published in 1968. With this selection of eight interviews from 1974 to 2007, CBC Digital Archives uncovers a witty, revealing and generous author.

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Faced with an unsatisfying conclusion to a story, a young Alice Munro would make up her own ending. From the age of 10 or 11 she knew she wanted to be a writer, but she grew up in a community where reading and writing were not taken seriously. So, as she tells CBC Radio's Eleanor Wachtel in this 1990 clip, she learned to suppress her real self. Munro also reveals the guilt she felt over leaving for university instead of staying home to care for a mother ill with Parkinson's disease.
• Munro's mother, born Anne Clarke Chamney in 1897, was from Ontario's Ottawa Valley. She got a teaching certificate in defiance of her family and taught on the prairies before becoming principal of a four-room school back in the Ottawa Valley. She met and married Robert Laidlaw, Munro's father, in 1927, and they settled just outside Wingham.

• According to Sheila Munro's Lives of Mothers & Daughters, Anne Laidlaw was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease around 1945 when her daughter Alice was 14. She died in 1959.

• Robert Laidlaw, Munro's father, was born into a farming family in 1902 in Blyth, Ont. He began trapping mink, marten, otters and foxes as a young man, selling their pelts for a good sum. At age 23 he began breeding silver foxes, a living that he continued after his marriage and while Alice was a young girl.

• In his 70s Laidlaw wrote a book which was published after his death. The McGregors: A Novel of an Ontario Pioneer Family chronicles the experiences of Scottish settlers in 19th century Ontario. He also wrote a memoir, Boyhood Summer, 1912, a recollection of discovering the flora and fauna on Blyth Creek. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Writers & Company
Broadcast Date: Dec. 9, 1990
Guest: Alice Munro
Host: Eleanor Wachtel
Duration: 47:20
Friend of My Youth, Alice Munro, Penguin Canada
Photo: Bill Becker/Canadian Press

Last updated: October 10, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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