Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

I bought this book only because of its title. I didn’t know anything about the author, nothing was written about the story but I figured that a book with such a title deserves to be looked at.

Too much happiness? Can happiness ever be too much?

The book turned out to be a collection of short stories, an average of 25 pages each except the last short story “Too Much Happiness” that is longer.

Alice Munro writing style is captivating. Her description of people and places is so sharp and precise that reading it feels like watching a movie with every single detail in front of your eyes. The narrative structure is a bit puzzling but extremely intelligent, a story can start in the end of things then end in the middle of things.

“I don’t always, or even usually, read stories from beginning to end. I start anywhere and proceed in either direction.” Alice Munro

Some stories were shocking, Alice Munro says it with abruptness. Most of these stories are about life changing moments, in the form of an accident or the intervention of fate. There is murder in three of these stories, two characters have genetic anomalies, there is a near-fatal fall during a family picnic, and a broken ankle sustained during a walk through the bush.

I liked reading these short fictions. A good thing about short stories is that they get to the point quickly which is not the case in a novel. But on the other hand, you don’t ‘commit’ to a cast of characters, when you start feeling comfortable and attached to the story, it brutally ends. I found that the shift between stories is too harsh, you’d still want more of the same story -if you liked it of course, otherwise you’ll be happy to shift.

I still prefer reading a novel. What do you prefer?

PS. Runaway is another collection of short stories by Alice Munro. It’s on my shelf, waiting.

8 comments

  1. I actually don’t read so much books but when I do I feel like if the “book” was smaller it would be better. I get lost when I reach the middle of the book and I always forget the first half. Add to that, extra work and responsibilities are making it much harder to finish a novel with keeping the same passion.

    • Marie

      Yes, totally understand. In this case short stories are the solution🙂 or you can do like Mustapha (@beirutspring) and listen to audio books while driving🙂

  2. Marie

    Yeah true🙂 well share with us a review soon so we can post it🙂

  3. Well I prefer short stories, since a Novel will take too much time, especially when you don’t dedicate much time for reading each day.

  4. Thank you for your review🙂
    Too Much Happiness was my first Munro, and possibly the last. I had come upon her while reading a Personal History article written by her in the New Yorker. I expected her fiction to take a different turn, but as I moved along the book, I felt a bit disappointed with how much autobiographical the short stories appeared.
    She does a good job in detailing the workings of a micro-world (a remote, distant house, a small family, a village); I suppose she is good at it because of her own life which revolves around her own family and a bookstore which she managed (and possibly still does) for quite a long time.
    If I didn’t read this New Yorker article by chance, I probably would have failed to realize how much she endows her characters with traits of her mother. Apparently her mother aspired towards a better bourgeois life, an ideal her husband did not share.
    Though I enjoyed a couple of stories, eventually, they started getting a tad repetitive for my taste, but as you justly put it, the beauty in some of them, is that they “can start in the end of things then end in the middle of things” forcing us to assume a different perspective on the characters, and in some cases, necessitating a second reading of them.
    Looking forward to your “Runaway” review…

    • Marie

      Thank you Nino for this amazing comment. I didn’t get myself to start with Runaway yet, busy checking other books🙂 We would really love to read some of your reviews on this blog if you’d like to contribute🙂

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