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Too Much Happiness

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  19,763 ratings  ·  2,346 reviews
In these ten stories, 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.

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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 17th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Martin London, Ontario! Nothing to do with the UK! Luckily enough "the writer doesn't manage the transition from Canadian to UK English". Such a transition w…moreLondon, Ontario! Nothing to do with the UK! Luckily enough "the writer doesn't manage the transition from Canadian to UK English". Such a transition would be a total non-sense.(less)
Ann Brogan I think she deliberately 'cut' her as some kind of punishment. I doubt Joyce would be the type of woman you'd forget.…moreI think she deliberately 'cut' her as some kind of punishment. I doubt Joyce would be the type of woman you'd forget.(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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"Something happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places."

I pulled this quote from one of the stories in this very fine collection from the master of short stories, Alice Munro. Yet, I believe it sums up exceedingly well one of the themes running through every single story. There exist these significant moments in one’s life, no matter how remarkable they may or may not appear at the time, that s
Rakhi Dalal
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rakhi by: s.penkevich
Shelves: favorites
“We live in time - it holds us and molds us - but I never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it d ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Leave it to Alice Munro to humble me as a reader. To leave me feeling tricked. To make me feel dumb. To show me that even when I think I'm paying attention, I'm really not paying attention. What was I thinking of at that moment? What was occupying my attention? Clearly not the story I was reading, the story being 'Wenlock Edge' with that last section so crucial to giving context to the section before it. It wasn't a magic trick, just a rearrangement of the timeline. And I missed it. And now that ...more
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Something about these stories makes my skin creep. There is a feeling of total emptiness, as if I am watching people's lives unfold in front the plexiglass of a zoo enclosure. Munro is a talented writer, but there is nothing showy in her style. I felt no connection with the characters, the time and place are not developed in great detail. All you are left with the uncomfortable situations she picks as her material: unfinished lives, death, misunderstanding, lies. I'll come back to Munro the next ...more
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
is there another living writer of fiction who, while reading, produces as many of these: 'yes! exactly! a tiny but revelatory detail i've never considered in such a light... and never so precisely expressed!' -- no. there isn't. alice munro is chimney-smoke smell and end-of-day melancholy. the goal is to read everything she's written. ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The title of her latest collection could sum up the feeling Alice Munro's fans get when they encounter her work. Yet is it possible to get too much of a good thing?

Hardly, when you're in the hands of such an inventive writer, one whose carefully crafted, richly suggestive stories burrow their way into the subconscious like actual memories.

Even in her late 70s, this year's Man Booker International Prize winner gets to show off some new tricks. Two of the stories are among the handful she's writte
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The starkest realization I had while reading Munro’s 2009 collection of ten stories in Too Much Happiness was the absence of happiness. The stories are a sordid depiction of flawed humanity at its worst and most shameful. I took breaks in between stories and had little desire to return to them, a very uncharacteristic response to Munro’s writing. I have to admit nonetheless that Munro is a master at fathoming the depth of human duplicity, evil, vindictiveness as well as the human capacity for ma ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Mighty difficult time choosing between *** & **** for "Too Much Happiness." Alice Munro is more than capable of writing a good sturdy yarn, although the *** may indicate that she is mediocre at best at concocting brilliant short stories. All ten of these shorts are written in an accessible way, but the themes are harsh & bleak. 2 of them involve infanticide (one about a father killing his children, another about kids murdering kids) others are about... straight-up death. The titular story is the ...more
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Five of these stories I'd read before (online at the New Yorker) and it was a pleasure to read them again, even to note a few subtle changes that had been made, in particular, with the one I think is my favorite ("Face"). This pleasure in reading Munro, I think, comes not from her characters or her plots, though she obviously is very talented in those facets, but from the themes of the stories, some of which need to be teased out. I especially felt this way with a story ("Wood") that I didn't ev ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
"Every one of us will be forgotten, Sophia thought but did not say, because of the tender sensibilities of men - particularly of a young man - on this point."

This quote is not only my favourite quote of the book, it summarizes some of Munro's writing qualities quite nicely. She is sometimes very witty and almost always cynical, perhaps slightly bitter and an acute observer. Four very fine qualities in a writer, yet for me there is something missing in most of the stories. Something of a more for
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There should be a separate category for Munro: make those five stars doubles. She takes you into her house of fiction, opening doors onto pain and horror, onto hope and happiness (too much), onto searing truth and ravaging emotion, and then stops, leaving you blinking in the sunlight, with the feeling that one layer of protective skin has been removed. I feel that there is a connecting theme: the power of story-telling and literature. Stories to save life in Free Radicals, to rescue and calm in ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Alice Munro writes stories like guts: miles of story, packed into this tiny little space. You get into it and it explodes and there's, like, story everywhere.

They make you wonder why people write novels. It's not so much that they have more to say, it's that they take so much longer to say it than Munro does. She makes everyone else look like they're doodling.

Dimensions: A woman whose husband no longer lives with her learns to maybe move on a bit. Well done for what it is, but didn't make a hug
Nov 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
Great expectations...but alas. I have to agree with this review:

"This was easy to read and the stories and characters were easy to become. I just felt like, why? Why did she have these situations happen to her characters and why did she bother to write about them? It's not like I demand a lot of action, I just didn't get her choices. Just because you can write beautifully doesn't mean you ought to write beautifully about such things. The situations and the characters didn't seem to mesh for me.
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Munro on Audio and in Print

I started the collection on audiobook during a road trip, and finished it on paper. Listening to a story is a curious experience: you have no idea how long each it is going to last, and so are held in the total control of the writer. And when that writer has the mastery of Alice Munro, the sensation is both alarming and curiously satisfying. The first story, for instance, "Dimensions," beautifully read by Kimberly Farr, is about an hour long, but it has already taken y
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Alice Munro might be the reason I hate short stories. I mean, she’s the best short story writer ever - perfect detail, brilliant dialogue, the amazing ability to move forward and back in time in seamless slips of paragraphs - but with this incredible talent comes (my) the awful realization that the story is only going to be 30 pages long. And that you want it to be 300. Which doesn’t even make sense because short stories have a certain something-something in the punchiness of the plot, the pace ...more
Will Ansbacher
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bc
Alice Munro, where have you been all my life? I’ve nothing against short stories but for some reason, I’ve hardly read anything of hers and all I can say is, I am totally blown away.
These are brilliant and insightful stories, all with an unexpected twist. Too much happiness? That must be the reader’s state of mind because in the main the characters don’t have a lot of it. Munro packs anguish, indecision, action and very human responses into 20-30 pages that have the depth and complexity of a no
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Short stories which catch destinies in a few sentences. Carefully chosen word evoke whole lives. A few glimpses of an everyday event suffice to illustrate a life or a relation. Each story illuminates its own theme: misunderstanding each other´s feelings, rejected love, a life-changing missed opportunity, the feeling of shame, absolute trust and its catastrophic consequences. Written with a slight edge of female perspective.
Fantastically good writing, fine tuned, excellent craftsmanship.
If you read these short stories superficially, they seem to go about nothing. That is mainly due to Munro's undercooled style: purely descriptive and registering without fancy effects, not at all spectacular, on the contrary. Next to that, her female protagonists are rather common, unremarkable women that remain fairly passive and indulging, though not always innocent themselves: a woman who continues to visit her husband, even though he killed their three children in a fit of madness; or a term ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, nobel
I was a bit disappointed with this book (but this might be just because there were other books by Munro which I appreciated more). There were however some stories that I liked (I liked "Fiction" the most), but I only managed to scribble a few words about the first story while reading it. So here it is:

Dimensions *****

How can a mother cope with the death of her children? Doree cannot help but blame her pernicious husband, the person who has murdered them in a moment of insanity, but she is also d
Jan 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
I don't know what I missed but I did NOT enjoy this book. It's on the New York Times Best Sellers list and had great reviews. The book is a collection of short stories, but they are all very depressing. I felt so down-in-the-dumps while reading this book. Each story started giving me that pit in my stomach feeling and then turned out even worse. If you're looking for something up-lifting, choose something else. ...more

From Daily Lit:

In "Fiction," by bestselling author Alice Munro, a narrator lovingly describes the life and home she's built with her husband—and then describes how that life crumbles before her eyes. The rest of the story has our narrator in a different place in her life, reconciling with her past in a way she might never have expected.


Sometimes, I do not understand how criteria are used to assign a Nobel prize for literature.

Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a friend of mine said, I'm not going to say this book was good, very good or excellent. It was strong. Written in a way that I felt my eyes were hammered to the pages from the beginning. Now that I've just finished the book, I can not leave the mood and the world of the last story. I'm still in it. Too Much Happiness (the title story) is the story of a Russian woman mathematician, Sofia Kovalevskaya. Her relationships, challenges, achievements, awards, travels, loves...and finally her early d ...more
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
I think there should be a law regarding the inverse relationship between books and movies with "happiness" in the title and the actual happiness allowed the characters. Munro acknowledges that in the excellent story "Free Radicals," in which the protagonist is a reader. "She read modern fiction too. Always fiction. She hated to hear the word "escape" used about fiction. She might have argued, notj ust playfully, that it was real life that was the escape. But this was too important to argue about ...more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I feel that I should love just to justify the grades I got in college English. Alice Munro truly has a writing gift and her characters are well drawn, but the stories go absolutely no where. You get interested in a character and what is going on and then it. just. ends. What is the point of even telling the story when nothing is going to happen? It left me feeling each time that I was missing hidden nuances that I was just too stupid to discover. I didn't love it - guess I sh ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
The title is most ironic. This collection of stories seems more tragic and depressing than happy to me. I looked for some positive joy in each story, but was left with sadness instead. Sadly, I did not enjoy this book and look forward to my book club discussion to hopefully find some redeaming qualities for the book.

Ah, after book club, I was able to discover some notes of optimism. Perhaps Munro was using shocking allegory, such as stripping away clothing represented removal of ones mental barr
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 bumped up to 4

This is my introduction to the works of Alice Munro, and it was a pleasant one. Wikipedia describes her work as "having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time.[2] Her stories embed more than announce, reveal more than parade."

I think this is an accurate characterization of the stories I read. Interestingly, I didn't especially care for the time shifts, but chalk that up to a personal preference (henc
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My second Munro collection this year and I have the feeling there'll be another.
One of my favorite stories was "Child's Play," about an only child who becomes an anthropologist. The character writes a book about the attitude towards "unique people," meaning, mostly, handicapped. Having chosen to remain single and distanced, the anthropologist finds her one notable relationship was with another girl named Charlene, whom she met at summer camp. Charlene remains attached to the main character into
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She read modern fiction too. Always fiction. 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.

Until last year I had never even heard of Alice Munro before. When she was rewarded with the Nobel Prize, I was a huge question mark, puzzled and confused with no idea of who this woman was. Of course I wanted to read some of her works in order to understand why she wo
Sophy H
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this cleverly written collection of short stories. They reminded me of Tales of the Unexpected which were deliciously dark adult stories written by Roald Dahl and adapted for the TV in the late 1970's and 1980's. The characters within Alice Munro's stories are morally questionable, judgmental, selfish and flawed; but above all else, they're human which is what makes their fallibility so relatable and intriguing to read about. There are some lovely little pearls of wisdom in the ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As some of you may know, in general I do not like short stories. In part this is because I'd rather get into a long novel then have to keep starting over with new characters, etc. But also because I am just simply lazy. A review for a collection of short stories encompasses many short reviews, rather than just one. And frequently it seems that short story collections are less cohesive than one might wish.

Not true here. I have finished reading the first 9 of these stories and will post a note abo
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Wenlock Edge - I don't get it. 9 928 Jul 30, 2020 03:44AM  
No Human Connection 1 19 May 27, 2017 05:33AM  
I've read Munro's own comments about Wenlock Edge. 1 70 Oct 18, 2013 05:14PM  

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Alice Ann Munro, née Laidlaw, is a Canadian short-story writer who is widely considered one of the world's premier fiction writers. Munro is a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction. Her stories focus on human relationships looked at through the lens of daily life. She has thus been referred to as "the Canadian Chekhov."

She is the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Liter

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