Can someone please tell me what the hell happened at the end? I am all for not spelling things out and not having perfect, pretty endings, but I read that ending very carefully five different times and I truly have no idea what happened? Was he dead? But then he was there? Was his head hanging in a tree? Then who was she calling and who was there?
I really enjoy her stories and I do think she's probably as amazing of a writer as they say she is, but I do sometimes get frustrated by her vagueness. Mystery, yes. The reader thinking for herself, yes. Leaving some things open to interpretation, yes. Leaving the reader confused and unsure of what the hell happened, NO!
The whole tale of Lottar in Albania is a story within the story being told to the narrator by Charlotte. But at the end, you're led to believe that Charlotte might be Lottar and maybe she was telling her life story.
In this story-within-a-story of Lottar, after she's being led away from the British consulate at the end, she sees the preist near the trees watching and she calls out to him, but he doesn't move. But later, when she arrives back in England or Canada, the preist is waiting for her.
If the story is true, then Charlotte's husband is the preist from the Lottar story.
Doe that make sense?
Well, yes I got all that and that ending (regarding the Franciscan) is what I wanted to believe. I don't have the book with me but yes, first she says he's standing behind the tree. But then she describes him in a very dead and strange way (maybe I'll be able to come back and actually quote this part). His face is pale, lifeless, emotionless, like a picture of an apostle or saint in a church (always dead!), etc. and then suddenly she "realizes too late." What? She feels sickened and anxious but it gives no clue as to what she ha realized. I guess if she's still calling to him she didn't think he was dead. I swear to you though she (Munro) talks about the face as if it is completely disconnected from the body and the specific words she uses all mean without life or vitality in a very literal sense.
My other confusion was that he is Italian, yet her partner is Middle Eastern. Later it definitely hinted (the mustache especially) that it was him, but these intentionally vague explanations did end up confusing me and really every time I re-read it I actually became more confused.
But yes, there is no room to doubt that the story is about Charlotte herself. And I thought it was a very good story. Sometimes I think Munro just needs to give us one more inch. That can really be a power thing with a writer, they get to know, you do not, and it bugs me.
Here it is from the book:
"His face, pale as the oranges were in that light, looked out of the branches, all its swarthiness drained away. It was a wan face hanging in the tree, its melancholy expression quite impersonal and undemanding, like you might see on the face of a devout but proud apostle in a church window. Then it was gone, taking the breath out of her body, as she knew too late."
As accomplished a writer as she is, there is no way she was conjuring up all of these death images unintentionally. I guess the more I think about it it must be that he had decided to betray his calling and his vows to be with her and that is a kind of death? What did she know too late exactly? But too why would his expression be impersonal and undemanding if he was doing this out of love for her?
Then the other thing that confused me was, if he was standing there behind the tree and the guide was leading her straight to the dock, how was he already there when she arrived? I can't imagine that I'm the only person who was confused by these vague and sometimes conflicting aspects of the story (and I have found the same thing in plenty of her other ones too).