"The Stone Diaries"
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2008At the moment I'm making an effort to clear out the books that I've had for years on my shelves and never read, and as a result I've finally got around to reading "The Stone Diaries", which I suspect I've had sitting around since sometime in 2004. I remember reading another Carol Shields book, Unless, in mid-2003, and I think that I bought this immediately afterwards purely because I'd heard that it was a good book. However once I had it I think that I was put off by the back-cover blurb, as the idea of reading the (fictional) life story of some 90-year old woman didn't really appeal to me. Well it turns out that it is a good book and in fact I did very much enjoy reading the life story of a 90-year old woman.
"The Stone Diaries" is an episodic life history of Daisy Goodwill, whose mother dies giving birth to her at the start of the 20th century and who dies herself near the end of that century, leaving behind her own children and grandchildren. I think that I was engaged at the start by the writing which reminded me of some magical realism novels that I've read in the past (though I wouldn't describe this as magical realism). It's not really a biography, in that many significant events (both in world history and even in Daisy's own life) are left out and only implied; there is no sense of the changes that happened in the world through the 20th century; and although it focuses a lot on the characters' inner lives, really it doesn't feel like we get particularly close to them either for some reason. I didn't feel like this was necessarily a bad thing though - I think what I felt at the end of the book was a sense of a world in which individual people act out their lives, living and dying, but at the same time life (and the world) goes on, and that we all play a part however small in the direction that it takes. I don't know if this is what Carol Shields intended as the message (if any) of her book, but certainly I was glad that I'd finally gotten around to reading it.