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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Stone Diaries (1993) by Carol Shields

Book Review
The Stone Diaries (1993)
 by Carol Shields

   The Stone Diaries is a very subtlety existentialist fictional "auto biography" of a very "average" woman: born in the Canadian Mid-West, raised in the American Mid-West, returns to Ottowa to live as a stay-at-home Mom and raise three kids.  Survives her older husband, writes a gardening column for the local paper, retires to Florida, dies after a short illness.

   Daisy Goodwell Flett is touched by tragedy:  A Mother who dies in child birth, a first Husband who dies on their Parisian honeymoon by falling out a window.  She is not the stereotypical woman of literary fiction- she does not live in a city, does not struggle (except briefly) with neuroses, does not make a radical break from convention.   In fact, despite this being an "auto biography" about her life, we hardly learn anything about Daisy at all, except, perhaps, that she experiences a kind of life long alienation from her surroundings.   She is from the generation of women that did not directly experience "women's liberation" while benefiting from the pre-conditions which led to the feminist uprising of the late 1960's and 1970's.

  In the end, the reader is left questioning whether any of it matters at all.  It's the same kind of feeling you get from reading 20th century European philosophical novels.  Shields adopts distancing techniques which extend beyond the feelings of Ms. Flett.   Chapters skip entire decades, and some chapters are simply letters or newspaper articles, making The Stone Diaries a series of snapshots, from birth to death.

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