Widely regarded as a modern classic, The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life; that of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman born in Canada in 1905. Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, it follows Daisy’s life through marriage, widowhood, motherhood, and old age, as she charts her own path alongside that of an unsettled century. A subtle but affective portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life, this multi-award-winning story deals with everyday issues of existence with an extraordinary vibrancy and irresistible flair.
The Stone Diaries narrates the life story of Daisy Goodwill Flett, an ‘ordinary’ woman whose story is absolutely extraordinary. I received this novel as a graduation gift in 1993 and it is an absolute pleasure to revisit it and think about how differently I’m reading it now at almost 50, than I did as a bright-eyed young graduate
The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. It is often regarded as a modern classic. and Margaret Atwood quite rightly describes it as Carol Shields’ ‘glory book’- I think if it weren’t for COVID, I’d be suggesting it to our book group as I’d absolutely love to hear what a wide range of women with all different life experiences and outlooks would make of it.
I got really interested in reading around the book this time and it was fascinating to reflect on the afterword where Carole Shields tells us:
When I first began the novel I thought I was writing a family saga…Before long I realized I was, instead, writing about the subject of autobiography, about the central question of whether or not we can know the story of our own lives…The most substantial parts of a human narrative, it seemed to me, were borrowed from the impressions that other people – friends and family and passing acquaintances – had of us and I wanted these imagined voices to enter the novel and to inform Daisy Goodwill Flett…What do people think of us? These received thoughts, sometimes tragically, make a life.
Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography. How can we accurately convey all the tiny agonies and wonders of a life through the narrow medium of words? This novel is even more fascinating to read now that I have much more of my own life to look back on an I think it will make a great read for the end of a year as it is a book that inspires much reflection and meditation on my own life as well as Daisy’s
This book is a stunning mosaic of observations, fragments and recollections that blend together like a real life looked back upon with repetition, inaccuracies, conflicting accounts and omissions. It was very nostalgic to read it again and I’m delighted that Anne Cater invited me onto the tour and allowed me to reconnect with this much-loved classic that is a seminal piece of writing in considering the way that women’s lives have evolved across the 20th century.
The Stone Diaries allows us to think about the radical transformations that have occurred in the lives of ‘ordinary women’ throughout the last century. It is also a fascinating account of one woman’s experiences, warts and all – with a wonderful supporting cast that will stay in your mind long after you’ve finished reading Daisy’s story. I enjoyed thinking about who might recall moments in my own life and where I might fit into the recollections of the lives of others. It’s a really thought provoking read and i think it would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a woman who’s looking for a new writer to fall in love with.
I loved being invited onto this blog tour by the lovely Anne Cater to mark the launch of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a North American literary award dedicated to women’s fiction. Thank you to Random Things Tours and World Editions for inviting me to be part of the blog tour to promote the re-publication Check out these reviews from these other fantastic book bloggers…
Buy yourself a copy of The Stone Diaries here and find out how wonderful it is for yourself
Writer On The Shelf
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in the United States and emigrated to Canada when she was 22. She is acclaimed for her empathetic and witty, yet penetrating insights into human nature.
Her most famous novel, The Stone Diaries, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Happenstance was praised as her tour de force, masterly combining two novels in one. The international bestseller Mary Swann was awarded with the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian mystery, while The Republic of Love was chosen as the first runner-up for the Guardian Fiction Prize.
In 2020, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a North American literary award dedicated to writing by women, was set up in her honour. Her work has been published in over thirty languages.