I first picked up Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage in 2010, shortly after reading The Beggar Maid, a collection of interconnected stories about a daughter and her stepmother by Munro, which I really loved. I read about half of this collection and then just...stopped. I have another collection by Munro, but I figured I should finish this one before moving on to another, and decided to star over at the beginning, because I remembered almost nothing of what I'd already read. And it was good, but to be honest, I understand why I stopped reading it last time.
On their own, each of the stories in this collection is good. Very good, in fact, delving deep into the psychological worlds on the characters they are about. However, all together, it gets boring. The stories are all so similar that to read them one after another (I read all nine in three days) just gets to be too much. The stories are all pretty much about infidelity, unhappy or broken marriages, and mortal illness, with undertones of a feminist agenda. While these are all great topics for short stories and novels, having each of these elements in every story just made them run together and even now, having just finished the collection this past Saturday, I'm having trouble differentiating the different stories, an issue that is not alleviated by the fact that most of the titles are vague ideas like "Comfort," "Nettles," and "What is Remembered."
The story that I liked the most and that stand out from the rest is the title story, "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage." Not surprisingly, it also holds the only image that I remember from my first reading: a woman in a brown dress. In this story, it is a housekeeper rather than a wife that leaves, and there are more fleshed-out characters, creating a more complete story. This is also the only story that I had a real emotional response to - when I found out the truth behind the main character's correspondence, I just ached for her. And then, when it all works out, I felt real relief.
The rest of the stories hold isolated images for me - a woman, bald due to cancer treatment, being kissed by a teenage boy under the stars; children having a mud war; a man following his wife and her new friend around a nursing home - but nothing that is full and complete, or particularly memorable. It's good but not great and most likely better read in small doses, a story at a time, than all at once.