The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields

The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields

Title: The Stone Diaries
Author: Carol Shields
Pages: 361
Originally Published: 1993
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: [rating:3]


The Stone Diaries won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was also short-listed in the same year for the Booker Prize. I can’t think of another book that was recognized by both awards. (I’m not sure how it fulfills the requirement for the Pulitzer of a work of “distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life” and the requirement for the Booker of a “novel . . . written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.”) [Update: Apparently, Carol Shields was born in America but married a Canadian and eventually became a Canadian citizen. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says.]

This is essentially the tale of the life of Daisy Goodwill – from her conception to her funeral. And through the events of her life, we glimpse truths about the entire human condition. The narrator is almost a version of Daisy, but can also be quite omniscient at times. The narrator is admittedly unreliable, but that is actually one of the themes of this book:

“The recounting of a life is a cheat, of course; I admit the truth of this; even our own stories are obscenely distorted; it is a wonder really that we keep faith with the simple container of our existence.” (28)

“She is not always reliable when it comes to the details of her life; much of what she has to say is speculative, exaggerated, wildly unlikely.” (148)

The pacing was all over the place – or maybe I was all over the place. I was at times eager to read on and at others wishing the book would just end already. It took me several weeks, over the hectic holiday season and a crazy work schedule, to get through it. But the writing is good. The themes are superb. One of the major themes of the book was stone, both stone quarrying and carving and as a metaphorical and thematic element. Here’s one way stone showed up:

“Here at the Stonewall Home, out of an impulse for order or perhaps democratization, all constituents lacking family names of their own, that is to say infants given over to the institutions care by their unmarried mothers, were called Stone.” (29)

I just love the idea of all of the little orphans, including Daisy’s mother Mercy, being given the last name of Stone. Anyway, in the end, I enjoyed the themes of this book more than the actual experience of reading the book itself. But I’d still recommend it. It’s a calm and realistic look at life.  I’m having a hard time expressing myself on this one. Head over to the reviews below for some second opinions, especially Sasha’s.

The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields [rating:3]

Other Reviews:
The Biblio Blogozine
Sasha and the Silverfish