Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, published in 2009. The book is a collection of short stories being the final that gives its tittle, shocking the contrast when the whole book is full of devastation, crimes, violence, divorce, depression. The common link among them is the strength of women under certain circumstances. All the stories but two, take place in Canada and their main protagonists are women. Reading her stories you can never predict inside this domestic and peaceful life the reader has to face the most horrid situations and crimes.
Why short stories?
Munro only has written short stories although in some way they can be considered as novels as they describe long periods of time, but unlike novels their end is not clearly resolved. When asked why she never writes novels she used a metaphor to explain the fact that she needs to feel the tension and have everything under control:
“I can get a kind of tension when I’m writing a short story, like I’m pulling on a rope and I know where the rope is attached. With a novel, everything goes flabby.” “People have suggested this is because I want to be able to manage everything and that I fear loss of control… I have to agree that I fear loss of control. But I don’t think it’s anything as simple as that”.
This is the technique she uses when reading and what she expects from her readers. Books are not like roads you walk along, when we read her stories we are inside a house where we know all rooms, all people. Books like houses have a structure and the reader moves inside (we meet the people, the spaces, we go forward and backward…) she wants us to go on reading and find out. She creates a climax and this is the real thing about her writing.
There are ten stories and, though we read all of them, we only focused on the ones we liked most. We all agreed that her writing was surprising and the stories were real reflection of our real life. In “Face” a young man who was born with a birth mark has to overcome all the difficult situations the fact originates in his own house. Later when he has a friendly relationship with a girl who is in love with him. In “Too much happiness” Sonia Kovalevsky , a mathematician, is living her most sweet moment after being awarded an important prize and having met Maxsim, the man she loves. The real true is cruel: too much happiness can’t last long and in the end she dies.