Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Too Much Happiness=Ecstasy?: Background information when reading Too Much Happiness

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Too Much Happiness

Stories

by Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro X
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2009, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2010, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton
Buy This Book

About this Book

Too Much Happiness=Ecstasy?

This article relates to Too Much Happiness

Print Review

Munro's stories often contain mysterious elements that deepen their appeal, leaving the reader with something extra to savor, like a fine mint after an especially flavorful dinner. No story in the collection better exemplifies this than "Too Much Happiness," a tale brimming with sadness that nonetheless ends in ecstasy. The chemical origins of that ecstasy begin when the doctor on the train gives her a pill, saying only "'This will give you a little rest if you find the journey tedious.'" Suffering from a sore throat and nagging cough, Sophia finally takes the pill that not only lessens tedium but also makes her feel "as if her heart could go on expanding, regaining its normal condition, and continuing after that to grow lighter and fresher and puff things almost humorously out of her way."

MDMA (usually called by its street name, Ecstasy) wasn't synthesized until 1912, and "Too Much Happiness" ends with Sophia's death in 1891, so it can't be the doctor's remedy. Or can it? The effects that Sophia experiences - euphoria, heightened perception, a sense of well-being - certainly match those of MDMA, a compound that uniquely combines the qualities of a stimulant, a hallucinogen, and an entactogen (a drug that encourages feelings of openness and empathy). Until MDMA was made illegal in the United States in 1985, it enjoyed a reputation as a potentially liberating, albeit unorthodox, component of certain kinds of therapy, and some doctors still believe that it holds promise for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

A much more prevalent drug at the end of the 19th century was morphine, a powerful painkiller derived from opium poppies. Heroin, first synthesized from morphine in 1874, did not become widely available until 1898. Nevertheless, a doctor, especially a German doctor (most of these drugs were synthesized by German chemists employed by pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Bayer), might have had access to heroin, and the language that Sophia's travel companion uses to describe the enigmatic tablet (it provides "a little rest" and "solace") does evoke typical reactions to narcotics.

Whatever this drug may be, in this instance it causes Sophia no ill after-effects; on her arrival in Stockholm, she delivers a lecture and then attends a party, although she soon leaves, "too full of glowing and exceptional ideas to speak to people any longer." From there, her health deteriorates and she becomes disoriented yet remains keenly aware of "a movement back and forth…a pulse in life."

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

Article by Marnie Colton

This "beyond the book article" relates to Too Much Happiness. It originally ran in November 2009 and has been updated for the November 2010 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Demon of Unrest
    The Demon of Unrest
    by Erik Larson
    In the aftermath of the 1860 presidential election, the divided United States began to collapse as ...
  • Book Jacket: Daughters of Shandong
    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung
    Daughters of Shandong is the debut novel of Eve J. Chung, a human rights lawyer living in New York. ...
  • Book Jacket: Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    by Xochitl Gonzalez
    Brooklyn-based novelist Xochitl Gonzalez is an inspiring writer to follow. At forty, she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket: Icarus
    Icarus
    by K. Ancrum
    The titular protagonist of K. Ancrum's young adult novel Icarus lives a double life that mixes the ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The Familiar
by Leigh Bardugo
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo comes a spellbinding novel set in the Spanish Golden Age.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung

    Eve J. Chung's debut novel recounts a family's flight to Taiwan during China's Communist revolution.

  • Book Jacket

    The Stolen Child
    by Ann Hood

    An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.