Stone Diaries (Review)

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The Stone Diaries
Carol Shields, 1994
400 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
May 2009

Canada has produced a number of fine prize-winning writers (Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje), and one of the finest was Carol Shields. I say "was" because Shields died of cancer in 2003. She was only 68.

The Stone Diaries—what Margaret Atwood called her "glory book"— brought Shields acclaim: it won the Canadian Governor General's Award and was short-listed for Britain's Booker Prize, both in 1994. In 1995 Diaries won the U.S. Pulitizer Prize.

The story centers on the life of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth on the kitchen floor in 1905 till her death in old age. It is a life rich and complete in every way, yet strangely empty—and Daisy remains till the end a mysterious entity, a bit of an enigma. We don't really know who she is, nor I think, does Daisy.

I love this book: the beginning in particular, has the quality of a fable—unforeseen births, stone towers and mystical rainbows. All the while, Shields is having a bit of fun with the form of the memoir—readers get different view points, sometimes "I" and other times an omniscient narrator... who tells us that Daisy is "not always reliable when it comes to the details of her life."

At the novel's heart, shimmering through its luminous prose, is a woman who searches for her own center, the center of the daisy around which the petals of her life revolve. Treat yourself to a wonderful read from a terrific writer. 

See our Reading Guide for The Stone Diaries.

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