Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

This is the second of Shield's novels I've read - I picked up 'Unless' from the library last year. I really enjoyed that, feeling like I'd found my slightly deeper Anita Shreve. I bought the book from a colleague's husband's friend who had come by a large remainder from an out of business bookshop - I think it cost £2.

The book takes the form of a fictional biography cum family history - following an individual woman from birth to death (literally). I warmed to the central character of Daisy as she seemed in many ways just to be piece of flotsam on the sea of other people's dramas. Her mother died in childbirth and she was given up by her father to be raised by a neighbour woman - who shortly after left her husband and went to live with her son in the big city. When she died Daisy went to live with her father for the first time. She marries but her husband dies by falling from a balcony drunk on their European honeymoon - their marriage was unconsummated. She marries several years later - this time to the son of the woman she was raised by and lived with as a child. When her second husband dies of old age Daisy retires to Florida where she lives out her days playing cards with a group of ladies who call themselves the 'Flowers'.

In many ways the book is very reflective - on the vagaries of life, love and passage of time - but in most cases it is not Daisy reflecting on her own life (not until she is on her death bed) but the others in her life reflecting on her. Shields uses letters and other documents to tell substantial sections of the story placing the reader outside of the narrative.

As I said, I did enjoy the book but I think it may be worth a second read in a few years time to fully appreciate its messages.

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