Stone Diaries (Shields)

Book Reviews
Shields's novelistic signature is her sympathetic insight into ''the rather lumpy psychic matter of perplexity'' felt by her characters. Delving into the lives of obscure people like Daisy Flett, she captures their dazed awareness that they are mysteries to themselves—yet she also grants them "the cool and curious power of occasionally being able to see the world vividly."
Ann Hulbert - New York Times Book Review


The Stone Diaries reminds us again why literature matters.
New York Times


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.
San Francisco Chronicle


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.
Publishers Weekly


Shields (The Republic of Love, The Orange Fish, Swan) offers epic material in this century-long story of a woman's life told from many points of view. Short-listed for the Booker Prize, the novel dazzles with its deft touch and ironic wisdom. Daisy Goodwill is born in 1905 in Manitoba and dies early in the 1990's in a Florida nursing home. Chapter headings are archetypal: "Birth, 1905," "Childhood, 1916," "Marriage, 1927," "Love, 1936," "Motherhood, 1947," until, finally, "Illness and Decline, 1985" and "Death." In fact, the novel even includes 16 pages of photos to mimic the usual pattern of a biography. In this case, however, the point of view switches frequently: "Life is an endless recruiting of witnesses," Daisy says in "Birth," and the narrative structure bears out this theme. Daisy's mother dies in childbirth, and her father, a stonecutter, forgets for days at a time "that he is the father of a child...."' Her father moves to Indiana, where she marries a man who quickly commits suicide and then, in 1936, she marries Barker Flett, a professor whose mother had brought her up. Her life plays itself out. Shields's quiet touch, gossipy and affectionate, re-creates Daisy's poignant decline and death with dollops of humorous distance, including obituaries, recipes, and overheard snippets of conversation. Shields, who began as a miniaturist, has come full bloom with this latest exploration of domestic plenitude and paucity; she's entered a mature, luminous period, devising a style that develops an earlier whimsical fabulism into a hard-edged lyricism perfect for the ambitious bicultural exploration she undertakes here.
Kirkus Reviews

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