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The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

The Stone Diaries (1993)

by Carol Shields

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,360871,131 (3.74)1 / 366

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Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
I know I'm going to be massively in the minority here, but although I didn't dislike this book, I really didn't hugely love it either.

Shields was evidently a great writer, but I feel like this book - in trying so hard to break down literary boundaries - just lacked something. Whilst the faux biography style was interesting, despite reading about Daisy Goodwill's life from birth to death I felt like I never really got to know her character very well.

The style of dipping between first and third person was hailed a literary marvel, yet to me it felt like lazy writing - a convenient way for the author to get herself out of tight spots when the story couldn't easily be told in the first person.

Photos were included in the book - again an attempt to push those literary boundaries and make it feel more like a real biography, but the first photo was so flawed I didn't even bother looking at the rest of them. The first chapter talks at length about how hugely fat Mercy was, and how she was taller than her husband, yet the photo that is supposed to portray them shows a woman who is clearly not hugely obese, and whose husband is taller than her. I read a transcript from a Carol Shields interview in which she was asked about this, and the answer was fairly grey. So again, to me this just felt like author laziness - a new idea about adding photos to fiction, but then just throwing anything in when it came down to it.

Daisy's story itself I found to be quite depressing. I actually don't mind a sad tale in a book, but rather than evoking an emotional response to the characters, this book just left me feeling faintly depressed. The overall message I took away was 'life is sometimes just so disappointing'. ( )
1 vote AlisonY | Mar 10, 2015 |
"The Stone Diaries" caught me by surprise. Yes, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, so I should have been prepared, but it received mediocre reviews and some of the criticism was pretty harsh using words like slow, awkward, dull, and experimental. In my humble judgement, it is none of those things. It was enthralling, emotional, thought provoking, and laden with beautifully written lyrical prose.

"The Stone Diaries" is the life story of Daisy Goodwill Flett - an ordinary woman who lived an ordinary life as so many millions of people do. And what is the sum of one ordinary life? Birth, death, a few monumental celebrations, a few life defining moments, an occasional life altering decision, work, play, scattered memories... joy, love, pain, fear, loneliness and moments of clarity. That was Daisy’s life.

Told in segments, almost like short stories progressing in time, and sometimes skipping a decade between segments, we watch Daisy age along with her loved ones.

Maybe to get the most out of this book, one would have to be a mature adult who has seriously contemplated the enigma of mortality, had a few of those clarifying moments and life altering decisions, and knows all too well of vulnerability and the difficulty of defining one’s own true purpose on Earth. Or perhaps if the reader has served as caretaker for an elderly loved one, knowing their time on earth is limited, watching them come to terms with the sum of what their life has been, their disappointments and regrets… wondering “what was the meaning of it all?”

And how much does anyone really know of another’s deepest inner being... their thoughts, their passions, their driving force. On her death bed, moments before she dies, Daisy agonizes because she is alone, “we require in our moments of courage or shame, at least one witness, but Mrs. Flett has not had this privilege. This is what breaks her heart. What she can’t bear. Even now, eighty years old.” Though her family was gathered around her, still the lack of intimacy was heartbreaking. So many barriers... so much complacency... unknown words... so little time.

I particularly enjoyed the way Carol Shields injected the opinions and feelings of several different characters, various bits of advice everyone gave Daisy, and their thoughts involving Daisy’s actions, moods, and appearance. Ironically, everyone saw things differently - biased from their own personal experiences and their own frame of reference. And isn’t that the truth of human nature? Is perception the real reality? When we are gone, are we merely the sum of the memories of others? So much to think about.

The message of the story exudes throughout the pages of the book. Most people in retrospect - when all is said and done - have pretty ordinary lives. They may have a hidden well of profound thoughts and deep emotions that were never shared or never acknowledged. Unspent passion, unfulfilled dreams, and a fleeting legacy. What is left when that person is gone... some photos, a complimentary obituary, a few mementos?

"The Stone Diaries" offers up some powerful advice. Do not be complacent. Cherish relationships. Share your feelings. Make that bucket list and get started on it now. Carpe Diem. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Feb 5, 2015 |
Read an e-copy, with had a forward from another author, which helped. Excellent book. The author tells the life of Daisy, by starting with her birth, then jumping by decade through her life. But instead of straight narration, she tells a bit from Daisy's point on view, then adds in other people's perspectives of Daisy, or what's going on in their own lives, so we get the whole picture of Daisy's parents, the woman who raised her for a time, Daisy's marriages, her children, a step-niece, and so on. Some parts really resonated with me. The descriptions are wonderful. I'm glad I read the e-book version, because it was easy to look up the word to see exactly what it meant. Highly recommended. ( )
  nancynova | Jan 21, 2015 |
Daisy Goodwill's life story, from birth to death. It's a wonderfully frank account of what she thought or experienced, much of which she kept to herself. This poignant story, winner of a Pulitzer prize in 1995 and Governor General's Literary Award 1993, is not perfect in my opinion. The flaws prevented a higher rating, but did not prevent me from enjoying the book. ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 8, 2014 |
This is a fictional autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett, the daughter of an orphan Mercy Stone. Everyone who comes to live at Stonewall Home is given the last name of Stone. Daisy’s mother dies at birth, Daisy is raised essentially by a foster mother until her foster mother dies when she is 11. She then lives with her father in Indiana. Daisy gets a college education, marries, becomes a widow. Her father remarries, she is getting too old to stay in the home with her father and his new wife so she goes back to Canada to visit the son of her foster mother. Daisy is ordinary. This is the story of her life and her losses.

I loved this book. I was immediately engaged. What I liked is that I thought the story was very accurate in its historical representation of the evolution of a woman’s life. Daisy’s mother grew up in an orphanage. She knew nothing of relationships between people let alone between a man and a woman. She didn’t know a think about sex or pregnancy. Daisy grew up in foster home and never knew the bond of daughter mother. She went to college, unusual in her day, she was smart but she never thought of doing anything but being a Good Housekeeping wife and mother. The decades were represented through Daisy but we the reader shares the changes these decades made for women through the lives of Mercy, Daisy, Alice and Victoria (niece). Victoria would be the woman most aligned with my own time capsule. I like books that deal with aging and the aged including dying. This books ending chapter are choppy but I think the author was intentional. Thoughts for the elderly probably drift and end abruptly and never settle or stick. ( )
  Kristelh | Jul 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
There is little in the way of conventional plot here, but its absence does nothing to diminish the narrative compulsion of this novel. 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.
added by kathrynnd | editNew York Times, Jay Parini (Mar 27, 1994)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carol Shieldsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gossije, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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nothing she did or said
was quite what she meant
but still her life could be called a monument
shaped in a slant of available light
and set to the movement of possible music

(From "The Grandmother Cycle" by Judith Downing, Converse Quarterly, Autumn)
For my sister Babs
First words
My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill.
It is frightening, and also exhilarating, her ability to deceive those around her...
She was, you might say, a woman who recognized the value of half a loaf.
These last ten years had been a period of disintegration; he saw that now. He had imagined himself to be a man intent on making something, while all the while he was participating in a destructive and sorrowful narrowing of his energy.
Moving right along, and along, and along. The way she's done all her life. Numbly. Without thinking.
That life “thus far” has meant accepting the doses of disabling information that have come her way, every drop, and stirring them with the spoon of her longing – she's done this for so many years it's become second nature.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
From her calamitous birth in Manitboa in 1905 to her journey with her father to Indiana, throughot her years as a wife, mother, and widow, Daisy Stone Goodwill has struggled to understand her place in her own life. Now she listens, she observes, and, through sheer force of imagination, she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling miconnections she discovers in between. With irony and humor, CS weaves together the poignant story of this twentieth-century pilgrim in search of herself, and in doing so she creates a story that is a paradigm of the unsettles decades of our era. (0-14-023313-X)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014023313X, Paperback)

This fictionalized autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett, captured in Daisy's vivacious yet reflective voice, has been winning over readers since its publication in 1995, when it won the Pulitzer Prize. After a youth marked by sudden death and loss, Daisy escapes into conventionality as a middle-class wife and mother. Years later she becomes a successful garden columnist and experiences the kind of awakening that thousands of her contemporaries in mid-century yearned for but missed in alcoholism, marital infidelity and bridge clubs. The events of Daisy's life, however, are less compelling than her rich, vividly described inner life--from her memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death. Shields' sensuous prose and her deft characterizations make this, her sixth novel, her most successful yet.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:23 -0400)

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In celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of its original publication, Carol Shields's Pulitzer Prizewinning novel is now available in a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition One of the most successful and acclaimed novels of our time, this fictionalized autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett is a subtle but affecting portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life. What transforms this seemingly ordinary tale is the richness of Daisy's vividly described inner life -- from her earliest memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death.… (more)

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Voland Edizioni

An edition of this book was published by Voland Edizioni.

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