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.