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The Stone Diaries: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 30, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This fictionalized autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett, captured in Daisy's vivacious yet reflective voice, has been winning over readers since its publication in 1995, when it won the Pulitzer Prize. After a youth marked by sudden death and loss, Daisy escapes into conventionality as a middle-class wife and mother. Years later she becomes a successful garden columnist and experiences the kind of awakening that thousands of her contemporaries in mid-century yearned for but missed in alcoholism, marital infidelity and bridge clubs. The events of Daisy's life, however, are less compelling than her rich, vividly described inner life--from her memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death. Shields' sensuous prose and her deft characterizations make this, her sixth novel, her most successful yet. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian writer Shields's novels and short stories ( Swann ; The Republic of Love , etc.) are intensely imagined, humanely generous, beautifully sustained and impeccably detailed. Despite rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, she has yet to achieve an audience here; one hopes this latest effort, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, will be her breakthrough. It is at once a playful sendup of the art of biography and a serious exploration of the essential mystery of human lives; the gist of this many-faceted story is that all biographies are only versions of the facts. Shields follows her heroine, Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett, from her birth--and her mother's death--on the kitchen floor of a stonemason's cottage in a small quarry town in Manitoba through childhood in Winnipeg, adolescence and young womanhood in Bloomington, Ind. (another quarry town), two marriages, motherhood, widowhood, a brief, exhilarating career in Ottawa--and eventually to old age and death in Florida. Stone is the unifying image here: it affects the geography of Daisy's life, and ultimately her vision of herself. Wittily, ironically, touchingly, Shields gives us Daisy's version of her life and contrasting interpretations of events from her friends, children and extended family. (She even provides ostensible photographs of Daisy's family and friends.) Shields's prose is succint, clear and graceful, and she is wizardly with description, summarizing appearance, disposition and inner lives with elegant imagery. Secondary characters are equally compelling, especially Daisy's obese, phlegmatic mother; her meek, obsessive father, who transforms himself into an overbearing executive; her adoptive mother, her stubborn father-in-law. Readers who discover Shields with this book can also pick up a simultaneously published paperback version of an early first novel, Happenstance . Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics Deluxe
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143105507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143105503
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Marie Rochon on December 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
How can one define a life lived? If we had a chance to have our life story written, and then told through the eyes of those who were closest to us, what would they say about us, and more interestingly, how accurate would they be in truly understanding the inner nuances that make each of us tick?
In "The Stone Diaries," Carol Shields attempts to chronicle the life of Daisy Goodwill. It is a life first told through the eyes of Daisy, and then through the eyes of those who presumably knew her best: her friends, children and relatives.
What is extraordinary about this book, is that one can look at a life lived in so many ways. Was Daisy Goodwill's life uneventful, lacking the excitement and freedom of her more worldly friends? Or was it a full, rich life? Only the reader can make this determination. But what is fascinating about "The Stone Diaries" is how the determination of the value of Daisy's life is so different, depending on the perspective that is taken. How much do we really know those people who we love the most? How well do we really know each other? I found this book to be a fascinating read, particularly for women who are living their life in full; however unfascinating and uneventful that may seem.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on December 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
Carol Shields The Stone Diaries [Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award 1995] is the story of Daisy Stone Goodwill, a Canadian woman whose mother died in childbirth, was raised by her neighbor's relatives, was widowed twice (the first time on her honeymoon), raised children, worked in a job she loved until she was fired, moved to Florida, and died. Daisy is, in one sense, an absolutely "ordinary" woman, who lives much of her life in the shadow of men. I think that it was for this reason, and the fact that she ends her life separated from her children, that my wife (and other women I know who have read this book) found the novel very depressing. I was not so struck. What came across to me was Daisy's resilience in the face of very difficult circumstances, finding some satisfaction on the world's terms. Undeniably, Daisy was not a "success" as we now view women's lives. However, she formed some successful relationships, and always seemed to put the pieces together to move from one part of her life to the next. The best example of this for me was her Florida bridge group, "The Flowers" (Daisy, Lilly, Myrtle and Glad), who became her final community after she was long widowed, and her childhood friends dead. One can regret that life has brought her to this final community, a circle of old widows in a retirement home, or note how Daisy stays on her feet and moving, from one chapter of life to the end.
One cannot read The Stone Diaries without being struck by the style -- or rather styles -- in which it is written. While clearly fiction, Shields gives the appearance of journalism by including photographs purporting to be of the various characters.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on July 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's sad when it takes the death of an author to bring her work to my attention. Carol Shields recent passing, and the accolades by some of my favorite authors about her writing inspired me to select one book of hers to read. Fortunately, I picked the Stone Diaries, and simply could not put it down until the last memorable word.
Shields picks the most unlikely person to feature in a fictional book, Daisy Stone, whose life is mundane if not predictable. After an incredible birth and beginning, we travel with her through different years of her life, somewhat seemingly picked randomly. As we read each chapter, and witness the unveiling of her life, we begin to appreciate and realize that Daisy's life isn't extraordinary, but plain and common.
What is extraordinary is that Shields chooses to give a character like Daisy this incredible voice. Underrepresented in literature, women like these exist, they exist yesterday and will exist tomorrow. Sure, they have moments of brightness in their lives, in which we see in Daisy, but it never goes over the top.
What amazed me about this book was Shields extremely fluid writing style allows you to flow through this story as if it were unfolding before your very eyes. She allows different characters to pick up the story line, and share their viewpoints. Sometimes we hear Daisy, sometimes we hear a third person narrator. Sometimes we aren't even privy to who is speaking. Shields takes amazing leaps in her writing, trusting her reader to make those connections.
I'm saddened by the loss of Carol Shields, but gladdened to know that she's left gifts of literature to discover. In the meantime, if you want a broad, amazing story, pick up Stone Diaries.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Several years ago, one of my professors recommended that I read The Stone Diaries. I finally got around to reading it last summer. From the first page, I was struck by the beautiful, evocative, almost tangible writing. Carol Shields creates distinct images with her words--I can still see Mercy in her kitchen the day Daisy was born. But the true beauty of the novel is its exploration of the role of the fiction writer. Carol Shields' novel, with its combination of autobiographical and fictive elements, becomes an important study of the way any fiction writer writes. Every writer uses elements of her or his own life, yet every writer also uses "artistic license" in order to add depth and continuity to the story--even the person writing an autobiography. Like Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness, Carol Shields, by relating Daisy's "autobiography" from birth to death, is forcing us to look at the role of the story-teller. Although Daisy is present at all the events in the novel, she isn't witness to them in the way the author describes the scenes. But Daisy possesses an imagination, and, like a writer, she creates these moments. Really, she is rewriting her life, much like any successful fiction author rewrites a life into a book. And are these fictive elements any less important than the autobiographical elements? When The Stone Diaries is declared an autobiography, readers want truth, veracity, realism. But the life Daisy imagines for herself is as real as any "true" life she would relate to the audience. An exploration of the whole of a person's life--birth to death, hard facts to imagined ones--The Stone Diaries is by far the most stunning book I have read this year. If you would like to read a beautiful display of the process of the written word and the process of one's life, read this book.
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