Reviews & Recommendations

Book of the Week: Too Much Happiness by Alice Munroe

SUMMARY:
Ten superb new stories by one of our most beloved and admired writers – the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize.

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 emigre’ and mathematician – on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lovers, to Paris, Germany, 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.

With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which mean and women accomodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

“Too Much Happiness” is a compelling, provocative – even daring – collection.
(from the book’s flap)

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
“Munro’s latest collection is satisfyingly true to form and demonstrates why she continues to garner laurels (such as this year’s Man Booker International Prize). Through carefully crafted situations, Munro breathes arresting life into her characters, their relationships and their traumas. In Wenlock Edge, a college student in London, Ontario, acquires a curious roommate in Nina, who tricks the narrator into a revealing dinner date with Nina’s paramour, the significantly older Mr. Purvis. Child’s Play, a dark story about children’s capacity for cruelty and the longevity of their secrets, introduces two summer camp friends, Marlene and Charlene, who form a pact against the slightly disturbing Verna, whose family used to share Marlene’s duplex. The title, and final, story, the collection’s longest and most ambitious, takes the reader to 19th-century Europe to meet Sophia Kovalevski, a talented mathematician and novelist who grapples with the politics of the age and the consequences of success. While this story lacks some of the effortlessness found in Munro’s finest work, the collection delivers what she’s renowned for: poignancy, flesh and blood characters and a style nothing short of elegant.”
– Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

“I was writing a good essay,” reflects the naive student who narrates “Wenlock Edge.” “I would probably get an A. I would go on writing essays and getting A’s because that was what I could do. The people who awarded scholarships, who built universities and libraries, would continue to dribble out money so that I could do it.” Then she concludes: “But that was not what mattered. That was not going to keep you from damage.”

And she is right. Writing good essays is not going to keep you from damage. Nor is writing good stories, no matter how safely settled one may be inside the gates of literature — or, for that matter, inside any other fantasy. Faced with such a world one might well wonder: How are we to live? That is the question Munro has asked throughout her career, and continues to address in this remarkable new book.”
– Troy Jollimore, The LA Times

“Alice Munro— queen of Canadian letters and winner of 2009’s Man Booker International Prize for her body of work — returns with Too Much Happiness, a collection of 10 new stories. At 78, Munro can still teach younger writers how to write marvelously muscular short fiction. These stories have more plot and energy than most novels.”
– Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY

“A new work by Alice Munro is always cause for celebration, and this collection of stories is no exception. These stories are like smooth, fast rivers on the surface, hiding a deep turbulence. Each cool and intelligent voice lures me deep into the tale, but never fails to deal a swift jerk and embed a hook deep and permanent.”
— Karen M. Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT (via indiebound)

“Munro said in her acceptance speech for the Man Booker International Prize, which she was awarded earlier this year, cementing the wide acclaim she now commands, that she is interested not in happy endings but in “meaning… resonance, some strange beauty on the shimmer of the sea”. This remarkable collection certainly captures that – and more of a sense of happiness than might at first seem possible.”
-Lorna Bradbury, The Telegraph

AN EXCERPT:
Read an excerpt here.

THE AUTHOR:

Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published eleven previous books.During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including the W.H. Smith Prize, the National Book Circle Critics Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Lannan Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. In Canada, she has won the Governor General’s Award, the Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Libris Award.Alice Munro and her husband divide their time between Clinton, Ontario, and Comox, British Columbia.

You can read customer reviews and purchase a copy here.

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2 thoughts on “Book of the Week: Too Much Happiness by Alice Munroe

  1. I recently read Too Much Happiness and liked it, although not as much as some of Munro’s earlier collections, like Runaway. I relate to many of her stories on a personal level, particularly the ones about professors and would-be professors …. They get me thinking about what my life would have been like had I not left academia (I was reflecting on this aspect of Munro in my blog last night).

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