Too Much Happiness (Review)

April 10, 2010

Book cover for "Too Much Happiness" by Alice Munro.Title: Too Much Happiness

Author: Alice Munro

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 320

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Source: Bought from Chapters.ca

This is the pick for my book club this month, and was something that I wanted to read anyways, so it was a good chance to read some fiction that’s more recent than what I usually go for! (Also, it was the first book that I finished for the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, but I had already almost finished the book already before it started.)

Munro’s latest book is a collection of short stories, leading up to the title piece (and the longest of the stories) based on a real-life mathematician named Sophia Kovalevsky. The stories all feature women whose lives are shaped or interrupted by sad or outright terrible things: “Too Much Happiness” is not a literal descriptor of the tone of this book. And yet, each of the women that Munro writes about seem to have a certain stoic strength to them, even in the face of so much adversity. The stories make you really think about the characters and about what real life is all about, not about the happy endings that you read in most fiction.

Speaking of fiction, here’s one of my favourite quotations from the book:

She hated to hear the word ‘escape’ used about fiction. She might have argued, not just playfully, that it was real life that was the escape. But this was too important to argue about.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what I want to say about Too Much Happiness. I loved it for the most part, though I didn’t necessarily “get” all of it. It definitely wasn’t a happy-go-lucky beach read; it made me think, it made me ponder life as I know it, it made me sad, it made me want to cry with (or for) the characters at least a few times. But it did this because of Munro’s writing and because of her characters, because she made you connect with them and want them to be happy and successful, and thus made you sad when things didn’t quite go as they hoped.

Too Much Happiness is definitely a piece of fiction that is more real than real life often seems. It was not an escape. But it was beautiful, and you should read it.

Rating:

12 Comments

  • Misha Mathew September 5, 2010 at 4:44 am

    I love short stories by Alice Munro. I haven’t read this one though. You are right about how her stories make us ponder.

    • Carina September 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      I think that’s definitely part of why I love Canadian writers so much – so many of them tend to do that.

  • Bella F. September 5, 2010 at 5:41 am

    though I’ve heard of her, I’ve note read anything by Alice Munro and this sounds like a great book to start with 🙂

    • Carina September 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      I agree!

    • Carina September 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      Definitely a good place to start!

  • Izzy G. September 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

    I love short stories that make you think, so I might check it out. However, it doesn’t seem like it’s precisely for me. I really love the title, though – it’s so intriguing!

    • Carina September 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      I thought the same thing about the title. It’s a very Munro-like thing to do.

  • Trillian September 5, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I’ve not heard of this book before but it sounds like an interesting read. I’m not really into short stories but I might check this one out sometime.

    • Carina September 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

      I definitely recommend it, or any of Munro’s other short story collections!

  • Mrs. Q: Book Addict September 5, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I love Canadian literature, and I have yet to read a book by Alice Munro. I must change this soon! Great post but I think i’ll try a different novel first.

  • Kristen September 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I definitely will check this out when I want a book I can think about. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

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