At one point, she assumes the role of an Albanian man. And, we learn after her introduction, she is actually a fictional character in a story within the story. Yet the layers fit together wonderfully. The themes and structure may be complex, but reading it is far from a chore.
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She first meets Charlotte as a customer in her bookstore, but she does not learn her story until Charlotte is hospitalized. There are clearly things to discuss. But Claire tells the story of Lottar, as Charlotte tells it to Claire or, perhaps, more accurately, as Claire hears it. In an Alice Munro story, these distinctions matter. There are layers to unfold, reassemble, reexamine. Charlotte, before she is admitted to the hospital, clanks the noise of all her bracelets.
Gjurdhi pulls a wagon filled with old books wrapped in a blanket. They have an undeniable presence, individually and together. She had been on a holiday along the Dalmatian Coast, set to admire the ruins among the olive trees, but her guide was killed, and she was nursed back to health by the Ghegs. You can see how dramatically the situation has veered from the original expectations. She embarks on a journey as well, but only after embarking on an affair, with the upstairs neighbour, Nelson.
There are peculiar conjunctions: intimacy and uncertainty. This is, quite likely, the first you have heard of an Albanian virgin; you might not be certain what to expect either. Especially if you have ever dreamed of having such a bookstore yourself. Often these sentences seemed so satisfying to me, or so elusive and lovely, that I could not help abandoning all the surrounding words and giving myself up to a peculiar state. She suggests that he take them to the second-hand shop; she marvels at their pages, but she does not choose to immerse herself in those paged worlds.
Charlotte, on the other hand, chooses books at random. I have to buy this, for the title. It was not simple liking or respect. It was more like a wish to move in her element, unsurprised. To be buoyant, self-mocking, gently malicious, unquenchable. You might, like me, adopt this as your new favourite word.
Have you met an unquenchable character on the pages of your reading recently?
“The Albanian Virgin” Alice Munro
The plot of The Albanian Virgin jumps back and forth between different points of view. The story begins with the character Lottar. Lottar is thrown from the horse and injured. The tribe takes Lottar up to the mountains to their town, Matsia e madhe.
The Albanian Virgin Summary & Study Guide
The Albanian Virgin