Friday, November 06, 2015

The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields

I missed reading The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields, when the GoodReads TuesBookTalk Group read it last year, so it's been on my TBR shelf and went onto the TBR Pile Challenge list for this year.

It was a Pulitzer Prize winner for 1995, and while I did think it a good book (4 out of 5 GoodReads stars in my estimation), I didn't think it was absolutely fabulous...but pretty good and I'm glad I read it.

The Stone Diaries is a first person account of the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, who narrates from the day of her birth in 1905 until her death in the 1990s.  While it cannot be argued that Daisy led an exciting life, she did have an interesting perspective--she was motherless, a child of the Canadian prairies, loved and treasured by her guardians.  She had an interesting father, lifelong friends, and a latent zest for life despite her Mrs. Cleaver approach to marriage and motherhood.

I think what Shields really did with this novel is provide a chronicle of the twentieth century in North America.  It's not definitive, but it spans the century and reflects some of the disconnection and dislocation that I think characterized the 20th century due to exploding technology, shrinking borders, and changing social mores.

I think my favorite chapter was Work: 1955-1964, which consists entirely of letters that tell the Daisy's story after the death of her much-older husband and her mid-life career as a garden columnist.  I loved how Daisy reinvented herself at this point in her story.


  1. Excellent commentary Jane.

    A book that provides commentary on these years would likely be interesting. For most people on this planet, this time period wrought monumental changes. When one thinks about it, these changes boggle the mind.

  2. Yes I read this one long ago and liked it. Your review summed it up well. I've always wanted to read another of Shields's book, since I live in Canada now.

  3. I'm so glad you kept this one on the mental shelf and went back to it. I was ambivalent at first but really began to admire this book as it went along. I especially appreciated the way it showed the dreams and necessities that drove people over the border from Canada to northern US, or back in the other direction. The part you highlight in which Daisy becomes a garden columnist was unexpected and a treat. My mother was a local newspaper columnist later in her career as a family counselor, and so this part of the story (both the good and bad parts) hit a nerve for me.

    1. How interesting and poignant that your mother's life was reflected in a portion of Daisy's. Thanks for sharing that with me.

  4. Hi!

    It's funny how I got here. I search on Google for blogs about working - and found your blog due to your title. Although it was not what I wanted (Tried to find information about being a crowdworker) I find your blog rather interesting. I know a lot of German literature blogs and yours is so much different! Love your perspective :).