Sunday, January 24, 2010

Too Many Sorrows

   Tomorrow night I meet with the ladies from my book club. This is a relatively new experience for me. I have never been a member of a book club before. In fact there are very few clubs I have really belonged to at all. Oh sure, when I was a kid I took swimming lessons, joined brownies and was on a baseball team, but there are not too terribly many groups I have joined as an adult. As I am really much more social now, I suppose this is a bit of a shame. I have been a product of my generation  and perhaps pushed by the time period of my life. Who has time to think of me or I, when there are babies and young children that are needing one's attention.  Not to mention the challenges of a life threatening disease descended upon one's household. Certainly no time for me, but I am slowly working on that. Not that I have put my children out on the street or even find myself out living the high life every night. Far from it, but I have carved out a few niches just for me. No "Mommies" allowed (although most of us have children). Just women with the common interest of books and companionship. It is very refreshing. It also helps that nibblies and bevvies are offered as well. One can never get too highbrow for yummy nibbly bits.

   So tomorrow we shall be discussing a book by Alice Munro entitled "Too Much Happiness". I did review the first story in the book a while back in my blog. It peeked my interest. I have to say though that the rest of the book left me feeling a little dark. I have not read many of Alice Munro's previous books. Truth be told, I can only say that I remember having read one other book of hers, but can not truly remember much aside from that it was also a collection of short stories. The present  book was the winner of the 2009 Man Booked International Prize. That means it must be good, right?  Well, I am not sure, but I am intrigued to hear the critiques tomorrow evening.

   "Too Much Happiness"  is a collection of ten stories that in my opinion are all on the dark side. While the opening story "Dimension" holds a glimmer of hope for rebirth, this feeling does not necessarily carry through the rest of the stories. The stories are generally told from a first person's perspective, mostly from that of a woman (aside from Face and Wood). Many of the characters have lived through great personal struggles (death- Dimensions, Deep Holes & Free Radicals, divorce - Fiction, disfigurement - Face). While sometimes there is closure for the character at the end of the story (Marlene finally faces a childhood tragedy in Child's Play, Sophia has all her heart's desires about to come true in Too Much Happiness) more often they are left with more questions (why did this all happen in Wenlock's Edge, what direction is life headed next in Wood). There is  personal struggle abounding in the stories on these pages, many that are life changing (Sally discovers that after the loss of her husband and estrangement from her son, she can begin again in Deep Holes), some that are just recounted as a blip in time (a woman recounts working for a dying man in her youth and the intricacies of human relationships that unfold that summer in Some Women). What I find lacking is any excuse to smile. I do not always need a happy ending or humour abounding, but life is not all tragedy and gloom. Someone asked me if I felt the title pulled the stories together. Interesting thought, but happiness is not illustrated in any of these people's lives. They are all serious and not really asking for our sympathies. They certainly do not want to share any joys. In a word, I feel the book could be titled differently. "Too Many Sorrows", speaks more volumes in my books. Of course I did not write the book and I am not receiving the royalties from it. So hey, what do I know?


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