Too Much Happiness

Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness
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Too Much Happiness

Alice Munro

A wife and mother, whose spirit has been crushed, finds release from her extraordinary pain in the most unlikely place. The young victim of a humiliating seduction (which involves reading Housman in the nude) finds an unusual way to get her own back and move on. An older woman, dying of cancer, weaves a poisonous story to save her life. Other stories uncover the ‘deep holes’ in marriage and their consequences, the dangerous intimacy of girls and the cruelty of children. The long title story follows Sophia Kovalevsky, a late nineteenth-century Russian emigree and mathematical genius, as she takes a fateful winter journey that begins with a visit to her lover on the Riviera, and ends in Sweden, where she is a professor at the only university willing to hire a woman to teach her subject.Alice Munro takes on complex, even harrowing emotions and events, and renders them into stories that surprise, amaze and shed light on the unpredictable ways we accommodate to what happens in our lives.

Review

There is no doubt that Alice Munro is a great writer; her many awards and accolades and her win this year of the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement attest to that. Her short stories, which have the depth and clarity of novels, usually feature women living in regional areas of Canada, dealing with ordinary relationships and the vicissitudes of ordinary life.

Her new collection is somewhat of a departure, not in style, but in content. They mostly have a bizarre, perhaps sinister, twist –after beguiling the reader with their beauty. In ‘Fiction’, a controlling husband brutally kills his three young children to teach his wife a lesson; the wife continues to visit him in prison and is macabrely drawn to him. A woman lives alone, dying from cancer, and answers the door to a stranger who demands food and money and confesses to the murder of his wife and parents-in-law. The title story, ‘Too Much Happiness’, is based on the life of a nineteenth-century mathematician and novelist – it is a shining gem in its own right. This book is a rare treasure.

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