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Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries

This is the novel that brought Carol Shields to worldwide acclaim. It won the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the American Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It has also caused some controversy as some readers have considered it one of the great novels by and about a woman while others thought it deadly boring.

The book is written in the form of a biography – it even includes photos – and tells the story of Daisy Stone from birth to death. Shields divides up the chapters with dates and life events clearly indicated, starting with Birth, 1905 and ending with Death, the only chapter not to have a date. Daisy Stone does not have an easy life. Her mother dies in childbirth. Her father often forgets about her. Her first husband commits suicide. She remarries and has children. She outlives her second husband. In many respects, of course, Shields is saying she is like so many women who have to put up with much suffering, yet suffering that is taken for granted, particularly by men.

So is this book boring? Absolutely not. It does not contain any action and adventure. It is the story of a woman’s life and all that that entails. More, it is the story of how a woman is able to come out from under the shadow of men and become herself, even if this self is hidden under other identities such as her Mrs. Green Thumb gardening guide identity. Shields uses various styles to illustrate this – letters, different points of view, dialogue, straight narrative description, methods that have been used by novelists since there were novels. And she ends with a seemingly trite discussion about flowers, the botanical symbol she has used all along for life.

Publishing history

First published 1994 by Viking Press