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Too Much Happiness (Vintage International) Paperback – November 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: "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." Taken from a story called "Free Radicals," this line may be the best way to think about the lives unfolding in Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness. Real life assaults her central characters rather brutally--in the forms of murder and madness, death, divorce, and all manner of deceptions--but they respond with a poise and clarity of thought that's disarming--sometimes, even nonchalant--when you consider their circumstances. Her women move through life, wearing their scars but not so much wearied by them, profoundly intelligent, but also inordinately tender and thoughtful. There's more fact than fiction to these stories, rich in quiet, precise details that make for a beautiful, bewildering read. --Anne Bartholomew --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307390349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307390349
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Gio on December 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The characters in Alice Munro's newest book, some anyway, are more extreme than I've been used to encountering in her earlier books. There are two triple-murderers, a woman whose childhood friend helped her kill another girl, a beloved son who chooses to be a derelict, the male narrator (rare for Alice) whose port-wine birthmark thwarts his whole life, and there are a statistiacally improbable number of "specials", people with disabilities of intelligence. The dysfunctional relationships, Munro's perennial subject, are more extreme, or perhaps just more quirky, than in previous portrayals. Munro's stories have always stayed close to home - southern Ontario - and close to plain folk, to herself, her family, her ordinary `others'. That's been the great strength of her work, really -- her honesty, her close-to-bone reality. Now in her seventies, in this book and in her 2006 "The View from Castle Rock", Munro seems to be stretching her range both in time and space, writing about emigrants of the previous generation, about people who weren't and couldn't have been neighbors ... and in the title story of this collection, "Too Much Happiness", she's written a long story/novella about a Russian woman mathematical prodigy of the 19th Century. It's easy to understand why she wants to stretch, to establish her claim to some universality and some ability to get beyond her own identity as a subject. No one who has read all of her previous work, as I have, could deny that she has "written the same story again and again." She has. Or rather, she has written her several stories again and again, like Leitmotives, in her eleven books. That is NOT, believe me, a weakness in her art.Read more ›
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122 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is an honor to review 'Too Much Happiness' by Alice Munro, who I consider the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language. Ms. Munro is Canadian and lives in Clinton, Ontario. During her writing career she has garnered many awards including the Lannan Literary Award, the United States National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, the Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other literary publications. I consider her an icon.

With each book of hers that I have read (and I have read them all!) I think that she has reached her zenith. Yet, with each new publication, I find her newest work better than her previous publications. Her work is glorious. At the rate she's going now, her zenith may be light years away.

I find the metaphor of looking into a tide pool an apt one for describing the stories of Ms. Munro. A tide pool is a microcosm of the ocean, yet it has a certain stasis and life of its own. It is a living organism, relating to the macrocosm of life in many ways. The tide pool contains living species of fish, reptiles and crustaceans, all delineated by their own life cycle which can change with the tides or with the events of weather. Ms. Munro's stories are like this. She will take a small microcosm of life and show how it has enduring and lifelong effects - effects which may be immediately observable or which may not be obvious for decades.

'Too Much Happiness' is a collection of ten short stories, each wonderful in their own right and each one as rich and nuanced as a novel. Many of them deal with similar themes - paradox, movement through time, repercussions of impulse, regret, acts of horror and relationships.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The thing about Alice Munro is, she makes it seem so EASY. Of course, it's never easy translating the core of human emotions with a few deft strokes. Or to capture universal truisms in a couple of beautiful words. Unless, of course, you're Alice Munro!

Take, for example, the haunting story "Child's Play", about two young girls and a special needs child. Munro writes: "Children of course are monstrously conventional, repelled at whatever is off-center, out of whack, unmanageable." In a brief sentence, she dispels the notion of childhood innocence and flexibility and reveals children for what they are: afraid of what is strange.

Or take a quote from the signature story, Too Much Happiness: "When a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind. When a woman goes out, she carries everything that happened in the room along with her." Does this writer understand the human condition or WHAT?

Munro draws her readers deftly into a sort of alternative world, where the people ring true, the situations, even when bizarre, seem real, and the recognitions are surprisingly of oneself. There is much pain in these stories; in Dimensions, a woman who must soldier on after her husband murders her three children. In Wenlock Edge -- in my mind, one of the best in the collection -- a college student feels compelled to read to a benefactor stark naked, and endure a humiliation that will likely always affect the way she views literature and learning. In Deep-Holes, a mother must cope with a flipped-out adult son who condemns her for not being "useful in life." And in Face, a boy with a deformed face connects and separates with a childhood friend who performs self-mutilation.
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