Too Much Happiness

Book: Too Much Happiness

Author: Alice Munro

Short Summary:
This is Alice Munro’s latest collection of ten short stories. The stories are unrelated in that they do not contain any of the same characters, but all have a dark feel to them. They deal with everyday people and their often unfortunate circumstances.

My Thoughts:
“Too Much Happiness” is an ironic title for this book where happiness is very difficult to come by. These stories all portray normal people who have encountered ill-fated situations. The strength of Alice Munro is her way of writing a character so subtly that when they do something horrific, it is almost like a slap in the face, yet somehow still believable. You will not find any one-dimensional characters in this one. Even though the stories are short, Munro has a way of making the characters complex and rich and their lives extremely complicated in a limited number of pages.

There were some stories I cared for more than others. “Child’s Play”, a haunting story of two friends at summer camp and their long-held secret, was one of my favorites. The title story, “Too Much Happiness”, based on the life of Russian mathematician and author Sophia Kovalevsky, was a confusing and long story I could have done without. Overall, however, the majority of the stories were very strong and showed how people deal with terrible situations such as murder, cancer, and accidents.

One theme common to many of the stories is reading. Many of the characters read alone or sometimes to others in the stories. Alice Munro is nothing if not clever. In her story “Fiction”, the protagonist reads a book written by a woman she knew as a girl. She discovers that she is the main character in one of the stories. She has a reaction to the fact that it is a book of short stories instead of a novel.

‘How Are We to Live’ is the book’s title. A collection of short stories, not a novel. This in itself is a disappointment. It seems to diminish the book’s authority, making the author seem like somebody who is just hanging on to the gates of Literature, rather than safely settled inside.

Reading this must have been quite humorous to long time fans of Munro’s, knowing that she is the queen of the art form known as the short story. Clever, clever, clever…

Although dark and twisted, I thouroughly enjoyed this collection. This was the first book read/listened to by Alice Munro, and I was very impressed. If you are looking for a happy feel good story, go elsewhere, but if you are interested in a finely written collection of stories that look deep into people’s lives and choices then this one is for you.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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2 Responses

  1. You hooked me when you mentioned the reading theme.

  2. Maybe I’ll read this book sometime. It sounds interesting!

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