In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.
Alice Munro has a propensity for diving into the seedy underbelly of the human condition with her writing; exploring our addictions to love, to abuse, to our own insecurities and to other various parts of life that seem unimportant to those around us. This was my first foray into reading collections of short stories and with only one story in the collection that I genuinely disliked I was not disappointed. I plan on checking out more of her work in the future.