Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review: Too Much Happiness, Stories by Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness
Stories by Alice Munro
Alfred A. Knopf
304 pages

Is it possible to have a great respect for a writer when you've never read his or her work?  For what it's worth, I think such a thing is possible ... and if so, that's how I feel about Alice Munro.

Even those who don't read short stories likely know the name Alice Munro.  She's considered among the very best of short story writers. So, knowing this - and that this collection won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize - I was eager to sample her work for the first time.

I'm thinking, however, that maybe this wasn't the right collection for me to start with because it ultimately left me a little deflated.  Maybe it was because I was coming to this with high expectations.  While I loved several of the ten stories in this collection ("Dimensions," "Free Radicals," "Face," and "Child's Play"), the others didn't grab hold of me as much as I'd hoped.  They seemed restrained, like there was something being held back from me as a reader. 

(Allow me to digress a bit and give a disclaimer about "Child's Play." If you're the parent of a child with special needs, definitely skip this particular story.  Trust me.   It will wring every bit of life out of your heart.  I'm not getting this one out of my mind anytime soon and that is not a good thing.)

I don't know about this one, folks.  This isn't much of a review, but liking four stories out of 10 isn't a good ratio. (And one of these - the last and the title story - I found too confusing to even finish.)  I feel like there's something I'm missing, because I feel like I should have been more impressed than bored, unsatisfied, and meh.  As I said, maybe this just wasn't the right collection of Munro's for me to start with. 

Have you read any Alice Munro?  If so, is there a particular book of hers that you'd recommend I try as a second chance?

What Other Bloggers Thought:

A Book A Week
Reading Through Life

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Trisha said...

I have a love-hate relationship with short story collections, specifically I love half the stories and hate the other half. :)

Anonymous said...

How about Friend of My Youth? I loved that collection, especially the title story.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Amy, it just so happens that I own that one! :) Good to know you enjoyed it ... I will give that a try.

Trisha, I don't think you're alone in that regard. Seems to be common about those who read short stories.

Elizabeth said...

I deeply respect Alice Munroe but have never read her "collections," preferring her short stories, singly, like when they appear in The New Yorker, let's say. I think you've hit the nail on the head, though, when you describe them as "restrained." I think they are restrained -- powerfully restrained and perhaps that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Ryan said...

I recently read this book as a palette cleanser after reading David Fox's Comfort Healing and Joy. I guess I thought Munro would be a good follow up, but I found it to be just adequate.