Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Carol Shields/THE STONE DIARIES


The life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, from 1905 in Manitoba to 199- in Florida, complete with family album photos.

For this 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner, Carol Shields essentially created a family scrapbook in the form of a novel (or maybe it's the other way around, it's hard to say). We get the story of how Daisy's parents, Cuyler and Mercy, met and married; how Daisy was born; how her birth and adoptive mothers are each killed; how the peddlar present at her birth felt about coming to North America; how her best friend likes to gossip about sex; how her niece got knocked up by a married man--just about everything except what Daisy actually thinks, feels, wants, or does. The book is told through straight narrative (in first, second, and third person), letters, essays, opinion pieces, even photographs.

I can't make up my mind about this book. I think I liked it in the end, since it seems to have made a pretty strong impression. But I did have long passages of reading 5 pages and realizing I had no idea what was going on, that I'd totally tuned out. It was a lot of work to read for such a short, light book. And while I take Shields's point about how we ignore or miss the people we think we love, I did find it very, very frustrating that we have this whole book supposedly about Daisy Flett and we never really figure out what happens with her life. It made me sad.

Sum total: I'm glad I've read it. I do feel that the act of reading this book made me a better, more thoughtful person. I can't say that there weren't certain frustrations along the way.

10 comments:

The Biblio Brat said...

When reading this book, my initial difficulty was with the shifting POV's. That took a little getting used to.

I have to say though, that after reading an interview, I understood why she used the style she did, and I have to say there were many passages that touched a nerve.

Here is my review. I think it will say it much better than I can here.

Nita said...

I was underwhelmed. Glad I read it because of all the buzz, but just didn't get into Daisy's character at all or see what the fuss was about. Preferred Larry's Party.

iasa said...

I'm glad I'm getting some opinions on this. I like the cover picture enough I might pick it up. Not sure I want to read it now though.

Joan Mora said...

I read it almost ten years ago and hardly remember it. I must have tuned out a fair amount, too.

Jenny said...

I tried to read this one time ages ago, and I wasn't impressed. I found the book frustrating to read, and couldn't get interested in any of the characters or anything that was happening

Wylie Kinson said...

I wish I hadn't read it so darn long ago so I could offer some intellegent commentary. I remember liking it enough to pass it on to friends, liking it enough to vote for it in a poll at the local library (it came second behind Life of Pi), and remember reading the opening scene a few times because it was quite powerful (or maybe odd?)
Yes - the mind truly does go first :)

Trixie said...

Thanks Moonrat! I'm looking forward to reading it now.

Karen N said...

Thanks for the review of this--I read it for a literature course about life phases, and it was my least favorite book in the course, and in fact, one of my least favorite books of my whole college existence. If I have a hard time understanding/feeling empathy for the main character of a story, I don't really care what it's about, and that was the case with this book. It just left me feeling rather blah at the end.

moonrat said...

Thanks, Karen. It's interesting how I've seen reactions to this book ALL over the spectrum of opinions.

I guess it's true what they say--no two people read the same book!

Jolie said...

I haven't read the book, but I have a random thought ... does anyone else think the girl on the cover kinda looks like Alanis Morissette? Something about the mouth ...