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The Stone Angel (Phoenix Fiction) Paperback – June 15, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Stone Angel is a compelling journey seen through the eyes of a woman nearing the end of her life. At ninety, Hagar Shipley speaks movingly of the perils of growing old and reflects with bitterness, humor, and a painful awareness of her own frailties on the life she has led. From her childhood as the daughter of a respected merchant, to her rebellious marriage, Hagar has fought a long and sometimes misguided battle for independence and respect. In the course of examining and trying to understand the shape her life has taken, her divided feelings about her husband, her passionate attachment to one son and her neglect of another, she is sometimes regretful, but rarely penitent. Asking forgiveness from neither God nor those around her, she must still wrestle with her own nature: "Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear." She has been afraid of being unrespectable, afraid of needing too much, afraid of giving too much, and her pride is both disturbing and inspiring. The Stone Angel is an excellent example of the realism and compassion present in all of Margaret Laurence's writing. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Sonja Larsen

From the Inside Flap

This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Margaret Laurence?s most celebrated novel will introduce readers again to one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Hagar Shipley is stubborn, querulous, self-reliant, and, at ninety, with her life nearly behind her, she makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence.

As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past. We meet Hagar as a young girl growing up in a black prairie town; as the wife of a virile but unsuccessful farmer with whom her marriage was stormy; as a mother who dominates her younger son; and, finally, as an old woman isolated by an uncompromising pride and by the stern virtues she has inherited from her pioneer ancestors.

Vivid, evocative, moving, The Stone Angel celebrates the triumph of the spirit, and reveals Margaret Laurence at the height of her powers as a writer of extraordinary craft and profound insight into the workings of the human heart. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Fiction
  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226469360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226469362
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is essential CanLit 101.

Iconic!

For the longest time I have intended to read Margaret Laurence, and this is where I have started. I now know that I will continue on and read more of her work, especially the other Manawaka books in the series.

I think we are looking at some essential Canadian literature here, and yet, nearly every high school student from St John's to Victoria would rise up and say "What? Are you nuts?" As much as this book is inflicted upon the high-schoolers of Canada, it sure has not gained a welcome reception by that age group! For the Canadian teenager, seeing The Stone Angel on the English syllabus has become the equivalent of.... hmmm what would one say? Having a radio that is locked on the CBC station?

I believe this is because The Stone Angel is a book that is all about the "interior" and to truly love the book the reader must have an appreciation of the life processes involved in becoming an elderly person. From start to finish we are on the inside of this character Hagar Shipley. It is not the realm of the exciting pace and involved plotline. This book is rather a very somber, brooding, introspective look at a proud and uncompromising woman in her nineties. She is a woman who does not (in the slightest) want to succumb to the realities, adjustments, and inconveniences of aging and dying. As she faces the combined trauma of diminished health and loss of meaningful relationships, she has to come to terms with who she really is.

How far will her incessant pride and irritable crankiness get her in this last year of her life? How can she escape from those who try to make it all easier for her? Will she confess her unmitigated (and inevitable) need of others...
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
As you can probably tell by some of the other reviews, this book will NOT be for everyone. If you're looking for a quick escape, lots of action or a strong romance, this is not the book you want. However, if you enjoy books that aren't your usual fare and are strong on psychological tension, this is an excellent choice. I absolutely loved this story of an elderly woman, a rather judgmental, cantankerous person. I like novels that show how a person grows and changes and I find slow change to be most believable and true to life, as it is in this book. Many readers may have found Hagar Shipley's life to be rather mundane, even dull. But I didn't - her marriage to a man she eventually saw as inferior and coarse, her relationship with her children, her desire to make a proper home and better herself - were all quite realistic to me. As she becomes increasingly frail and dependent on her son and daughter-in-law, she also comes to see her life in a different way. I won't reveal more but I do urge you to read this one and stick with it. Odds are, you'll want to read more by the gifted author, Margaret Laurence.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Kerr on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most of the negative reviews seem to come from those who are forced to read this for their OAC requirements. I too had to read this book and I too could not, at the time, see WHY. In retrospect though I learned to appreciate what Hagar taught.....that space and the ability and right to choose for one's self is EVERYTHING. It's all we have.
Hagar's right to choices was fading and she felt trapped - hence the reason she ran from her present and retreated to the days where she faced a future full of decisions.......
Read this again when you are out of highschool and it all makes sense. Better yet, visit your relatives in a nursing home and think of Hagar.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chris Buchholtz on April 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Stone Angel is a book that I felt compelled to read--it is one of the most prestigious titles in the CanLit canon. Unlike many of the "great works of literature" I've read lately, this one didn't disappoint.
The Stone Angel is the story of Hagar Shipley's life, told in her own voice. Hagar is a ninety year old woman living with her son and daughter-in-law. She is rampant with memory. Her struggles for independence are interspliced with vivid recollections of her past.
The narrative voice of The Stone Angel is astounding. Laurence is a master of the simile and provides the reader with beautiful descriptions on nearly every page. At the same time, the narration, from Hagar's lips, constantly provides insight into Hagar and the people that surround her. At times, Laurence is able to tell you more about characters by their grammar than many writers are able to tell you in entire novels. Laurence has a particularly keen sense of diction. Her dialogue reveals mountains of insight about generations gaps, economic divides, and the walls that pride builds.
Overall, this is technically one of the best books I've ever read, and one of the most pleasing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hagar Shipley is a repressed woman, simply put, and one who is nearing the end of her long life. Realising she hasn't many years left, and watching her body and mind fall apart, Hagar comes to understand the chances she has missed and the mistakes she has made. Looking into the mirror she can still see the eyes of the young girl she once was, and through her memories works through the issues left unresolved from her life. By the end of the book you will understand this woman through and through and hopefully come to empathise more with the elderly. This is a beautiful work, written in lovely, flowing prose. Those who enjoy this book should also try Vita Sackville-West's 'All Passion Spent,' which is similar in theme. Two better works about coming to the end of life I've never read.
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