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The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
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The Stone Diaries (1993)

by Carol Shields

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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 |
This tells the life story of Daisy from the time she is born to the time she dies and everything in between at approximately ten-year intervals.

It was ok. It's not fast-paced, though I liked the middle section a bit more – once she was married and had a family, as opposed to when she was younger and when she was older. Not sure why, but I preferred that part. Overall, though, I'd rate the book merely ok. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 25, 2014 |
This is the story of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth in a kitchen in Manitoba, Canada,
to her death in a Florida nursing home nearly ninety years later. Through Daisy's life,
Shields reflects and illuminates the unsettled decades of the twentieth century in this
rich and poignant novel.
  TIISHARED | Jun 23, 2014 |
I'm not a big fan of contemporary novels set in not-so-contemporary times, but [book: The Stone Diaries] is an exception to said lack of enthusiasm. From the beginning, I found the story riveting, and I think I read it from beginning to end within 48 hours. ( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
Carol Shields’s majestic "The Stone Diaries" combines several features of excellent fiction: its events unfold in a rending emotional palette because of heroine Daisy’s sympathetic nature; its secondary characters ring true to life (even if sometimes eccentric or even bizarre); it uses multiple symbolic foci which balance each other superbly; and engages us with intriguing shifts in point of view.

But wait, there’s more! "Stone Diaries" makes unique use of a first-person narrative: there are stretches completely outside Daisy’s awareness, which she could have only learned of second hand, but then Daisy’s voice reasserts itself and focuses on Topic A – Daisy’s life. This now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t quality simulates life, or simulates our awareness of our lives. Ms. Shields does this brilliantly, it will captivate you. I was plunged into the protagonist’s consciousness, and out of it, in a way I had never experienced. And certain parts of this narrative are handled obliquely; written correspondence exhibited chronologically, brings to light a sudden change in Daisy’s life, which ends in a severe bout of depression. The whole works seamlessly – you don’t notice any abruptness or arbitrariness in these changes.

"The Stone Diaries" tells the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, orphaned in a tiny Manitoba hamlet at the moment of her birth, unofficially adopted by a kindly neighbor lady, whose son eventually becomes her husband and the father of her three children. The home towns of her childhood depend on quarries and stonecutting for their existence, and Daisy’s father Culyer Goodwill has skills in that area. In fact, so extensive are his skills that he builds a monument to his dead wife out of a series of stones that he cuts, and this monument grows so large that it becomes a tourist destination. He follows this project with a plan to build in his Indiana back yard a miniature model of an Egyptian pyramid, using hundreds of thousands of cut stones. Balance this against Daisy and her husband Barker. Barker, a botanist, has assembled a respectable collection – 23 species of lady’s slippers – but his work takes him into the more prosaic work of hybrid grains and the upper reaches of government service in Canada. Daisy seems dull and unambitious, and her quotidian life is sometimes the despair of her friends. However, she does succeed brilliantly with her garden, and makes it work with the deep understanding of a professional, even a scientist.

Obviously these thematic tropes challenge us to find the deeper, more hidden paths to meaning and intent, and they add greatly to my enjoyment. However, Stone Diaries is a highly enjoyable read just for its sumptuous, elegant prose, and for its worldly wise humor. The author’s craft vaults her to the head of the class – no 20th century novel has a lovelier cadence or appeals to the ear more profoundly or pleasingly.

"The Stone Diaries" won the 1993 Governor General’s Award for English language fiction in Canada and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Shields was born in Illinois and was a naturalized Canadian citizen, so she was eligible for both. It’s lucky for the panels that anoint our best literary fiction, because the book deserves these and any other awards that might be available. Important enough to be iconic, enjoyable, balanced, intriguing.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-stone-diaries-by-carol-shields.ht... ( )
  LukeS | Nov 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (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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Epigraph
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)
Dedication
For my sister Babs
First words
My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:23 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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Voland Edizioni

An edition of this book was published by Voland Edizioni.

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