|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Fictional Biography/Memoir
Start Date: May 5, 2011
Finished Date: May 19, 2011 (14 days)
Where Found: Book Depot
Why Read: On my TBR list; Carol Shields is a name that came up in my Canadian Lit class years ago and I've finally come around to exploring her work.
Read For: What's in a Name 4 Challenge (4/6)
The Stone Diaries is the type of book that is ordinary and simplistic in individual pieces, but as a whole is rather extraordinary. Because of this, the book is settling with me better now that I've finished it than it did while I was reading it. Has this ever happened to you? Carol Shields wrote in the afterword to this novel that people must all be ordinary or all be extraordinary, and this thesis guides the fictional biography of Daisy Goodwill-Flett from her shocking, unexpected entry into this world through recognizable milestones of childhood, marriage, parenthood, a stint in the working world, retirement, declining health, and finally her death.
The structure is orderly, the characters familiar and the events of Daisy's life are generally a part of everyone's existence. But it is far from boring as the omniscient narrator sees into feelings, thoughts, regrets, and perspectives that open up the story to become something more than a typical biography. A centerfold of photos of Shields' own relatives teases readers into believing the novel to be a true biography, and while little detail is known about how much of The Stone Diaries comes from Shields' life, we come to believe that a fictional life story offers tidier conclusions about events and people in the subject's life, and that not a single life is without stories that would make for prime literary material.
But don't get me wrong. Parts of The Stone Diaries are screaming for more explanation and insight, which resembles the unsolved parts and "plot holes" of our own lives. What bothered me most about this was that some friends and family members are discarded for no evident reason or are mentioned as an aside like a tiny footnote. This must be deliberate as not every player in a person's life plays a major part, but why bother creating a character just to reference it offhand and then never revisit the person again?
To pinpoint a theme of the book, "life happens." The mundane, the exciting, the anxious, the wonderful, and the horrible parts of life are not hyperbolized or edited to make Daisy's life cheerier or more envious, but are laid out honestly and takes more liberties as a novel than a nonfiction biography could take. This novel proves that indeed even a life that appears ordinary on the surface or even in the mind of its subject is more special and, to reference a favourite movie of mine, It's a Wonderul Life, has more of an impact on the people we encounter, even if temporarily, than we can ever realize.
Rank: (B)- Very Good, Highly Recommend