Sunday, 22 July 2012

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munroe

Book: Too Much Happiness by Alice Monroe, 2009 by Knopf, 304 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 √©migr√© and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, 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 men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

Too Much Happiness is a compelling, provocative—even daring—collection.

My Thoughts:
This is quite a collection of stories and Alice Monroe is clearly a master of her craft.  Her writing is beautiful and provocative, concise and surprising - I found my emotions mirroring those in the story.

However, these are not happy stories.  In fact, some of them are incredibly depressing, to the point where they are hard to relate to.   This made the collection difficult for me to read at times.

Monroe cleverly takes slices of life, pulls out themes and adds some twists.  There are threads running through the stories, even though they are all quite different.  Being too happy is definitely one, but also relationships and their (dis)function.

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