From the Publisher
"Carol Shields has explored the mysteries of life with abandon, taking unusual risks along the way. The Stone Diaries reminds us again why literature matters."
—The New York Times Book Review
"...Shields's storytelling is at its most ambitious and compelling."
—The Toronto Star
"A beautiful, darkly ironic novel of misunderstanding and missed opportunites."
"A wise and unusual novel that makes the ordinary extraordinary...Shields reveals the mysteries of love, culture and spirituality shimmering beneath the surface of a quiet woman’s life."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Canadian writer Shields's novels and short stories ( Swann ; The Republic of Love , etc.) are intensely imagined, humanely generous, beautifully sustained and impeccably detailed. Despite rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, she has yet to achieve an audience here; one hopes this latest effort, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, will be her breakthrough. It is at once a playful sendup of the art of biography and a serious exploration of the essential mystery of human lives; the gist of this many-faceted story is that all biographies are only versions of the facts. Shields follows her heroine, Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett, from her birth--and her mother's death--on the kitchen floor of a stonemason's cottage in a small quarry town in Manitoba through childhood in Winnipeg, adolescence and young womanhood in Bloomington, Ind. (another quarry town), two marriages, motherhood, widowhood, a brief, exhilarating career in Ottawa--and eventually to old age and death in Florida. Stone is the unifying image here: it affects the geography of Daisy's life, and ultimately her vision of herself. Wittily, ironically, touchingly, Shields gives us Daisy's version of her life and contrasting interpretations of events from her friends, children and extended family. (She even provides ostensible photographs of Daisy's family and friends.) Shields's prose is succint, clear and graceful, and she is wizardly with description, summarizing appearance, disposition and inner lives with elegant imagery. Secondary characters are equally compelling, especially Daisy's obese, phlegmatic mother; her meek, obsessive father, who transforms himself into an overbearing executive; her adoptive mother, her stubborn father-in-law. Readers who discover Shields with this book can also pick up a simultaneously published paperback version of an early first novel, Happenstance . Author tour. (Mar.)
Any performer has her work cut out for her when a novel takes place in several settings with inhabitants possessing distinctive regional accents. Shield's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes the listener from the plains of central Canada to Bloomington, Ind., and the Orkney Islands. Botsford is an excellent performer with a smooth and easy-to-listen-to reading voice, but she doesn't have a gift for imitating linguistic variations. The women of Daisy's Bloomington circle have Southern lilts worthy of Gone with the Wind. Readers would expect the voices of this coterie to age as Daisy does, but no accommodation is made for this possibility. Within each locale the voices are quite distinct, though the voice of Daisy, the center of the novel, stands out least of all, appropriately enough, for in this work we see her life through the eyes of others. This is an important and deft novel and it's about time that it was recorded, even in this overly abridged version. Shields's writing still makes this worth a listen. Available as a Penguin paperback. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
San Francisco Chronicle
Bittersweet, beautifully written . . . deliciously unclassifiable, blatantly intelligent and subtly subversive . . . The Stone Diaries chips away at our most cherished, comforting beliefs about the immutability of facts and fate.
The New York Times
The Stone Diaries reminds us again why literature matters.
Author of the ``most satisfying'' The Republic of Love ( LJ 1/92), Canadian novelist Shields here details the hard life of Daisy Stone Goodwill from her 1905 birth in Manitoba through old age.
Read an Excerpt
My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill. She was only thirty years old when she took sick, a boiling hot day, standing there in her back kitchen, making a Malvern pudding for her husband's supper. A cookery book lay open on the table: "Take some slices of stale bread," the recipe said, "and one pint of currants; half a pint of raspberries; four ounces of sugar; some sweet cream if available." Of course she's divided the recipe in half, there being just the two of them, and what with the scarcity of currants, and Cuyler (my father) being a dainty eater. A pick-and-nibble fellow, she calls him, able to take his food or leave it.
It shames her how little the man eats, diddling his spoon around in his dish, perhaps raising his eyes once or twice to send her one of his shy, appreciative glances across the table, but never taking a second helping, just leaving it all for her to finish up pulling his hand through the air with that dreamy gesture of his that urges her on. And smiling all the while, his daft tender-faced look. What did food mean to a working man like himself? A bother, a distraction, perhaps even a kind of price that had to be paid in order to remain upright and breathing.
Well, it was a different story for her, for my mother. Eating was as close to heaven as my mother ever came. (In our day we have a name for a passion as disordered as hers.)
And almost as heavenly as eating was the making how she gloried in it! Every last body on this earth has a particular notion of paradise, and this was hers, standing in the murderously hot back kitchen of her own house, concocting and contriving, leaning forward and squinting at the fine print of the cookery book, a clean wooden spoon in hand.
It's something to see, the way she concentrates, her hot, busy face, the way she thrills to see the dish take form as she pours the stewed fruit into the fancy mold, pressing the thickly cut bread down over the oozing juices, feeling it soften and absorb bit by bit a raspberry redness. Malvern pudding; she loves the words too, and feels them dissolve on her tongue like a sugary wafer, her tongue itself grown waferlike and sweet. Like an artist years later this form of artistry is perfectly clear to me she stirs and arranges and draws in her brooding lower lip. Such a dish this will be. A warm sponge soaking up color. (Mrs. Flett next door let her have some currants off her bush; the raspberries she's found herself along the roadside south of the village, even though it half kills her, a woman of her size walking out in the heat of the day.)
She sprinkles on extra sugar, one spoonful, then another, then takes the spoon to her mouth, the rough crystals that keep her alert. It is three o'clock a hot July afternoon in the middle of Manitoba, in the middle of the Dominion of Canada. The parlor clock (adamantine finish, gilded feet, a wedding present from her husband's family, the Goodwills of Stonewall Township) has just struck the hour. Cuyler will be home from the quarry at five sharp; he will have himself a good cheerful wash at the kitchen basin, and by half-past five the two of them will sit down at the table - this very table, only spread with a clean cloth, every second day a clean cloth and eat their supper. Which for the most part will be a silent meal, both my parents being shy by nature, and each brought up in the belief that conversing and eating are different functions, occupying separate trenches of time. Tonight they will partake of cold corned beef with a spoonful of homemade relish, some dressed potatoes at the side, cups of sweet tea, and then this fine pudding. His eyes will widen; my father, Cuyler Goodwill, aged twenty-eight, two years married, will never in his life have tasted Malvern pudding. (That's what she's preparing for his stunned and mild look of confusion, that tender, grateful male mouth dropping open in surprise. It's the least she can do, surprise him like this.) She sets a flower-patterned plate carefully on top of the pudding and weights it down with a stone.