THE STONE DIARIES by Carol Shields

THE STONE DIARIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Shields (The Republic of Love, The Orange Fish, Swan, plus see above) 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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-85309-7
Page count: 361pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993




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