Carol Shields – The Stone Diaries

77554Sam had to work last night. She was asked to participate in the store remodel which took place overnight, 8 pm to 7 am. I thought it would be a good idea if I stayed up so I could text with her in the night so as to keep her company on a difficult shift. I have been reading through The Edge of Sadness and Andersonville, but I thought I would see if I could try and read a book straight through. The two I have been reading are not the page turning type and I felt were longer than I could possibly feel accomplished with by morning. So, I selected The Stone Diaries, and put on a pot of coffee to help me through the night.

Although Sam and I didn’t text that often, I tried to be helpful to her and became wrapped up in this work. I just read Drew’s post on this book before writing my own review. Even though he finished a long time ago and we are not both in very different places, not only geographically but in our lives together and apart, I have a similar take on this book which seems bizarre to me. Shields is an incredible writer but she reminds me of an older lady, perhaps a librarian or a used bookstore worker, that is enthralled with her own family history but hasn’t put it completely together that the details of the lives she is describing are not interesting to the rest of the world. Her book and her prose were captivating to me as I have struggled with some less than captivating novels of late, but the story was uninspiring unfortunately.

Drew used the story of his poetry class which as I read it I found myself skipping down the page because I have heard that story before, rest assured it is faithfully retold in text on this blog. I think that was an apt story to tell of Shield’s work, taking something back before fully diving in. I think she wanted to say something important and chose not to because that was the point of the whole book. Shield’s would lead us to believe we live clipped lives and struggle against the frustration of language, decorum, and awkwardness. I remember taping songs from the radio onto cassette tapes as a kid, and you would be after one song and press stop on the recorder just in time to hear the next some come on that you liked as well and are forever caught with the first few bars of it to haunt your decision. Something I noticed near the end of this book was that Daisy was a keenly Victorian character which Shield’s smacks up against the aloof children of the modern age which I thought was interesting. I thought the trip to Orkney was the most poignant moment, and the book probably should have stopped there but she set up to the tell the whole story and so she did. The ending is the best rendering of the end of life in the Medical Age with all of its dignity stripping clinical deaths I think I have read in fiction. I am glad it is immortalized here so honestly. But the story of Orkney was the clearest moment of Shield’s tactic of the slightly spoiled life lost to indecision, fear, busyness, and carelessness. I do not know what her point was other than to tell a true story for the sake of the story itself.

This book did provoke me to text my mom at 9:30 in the morning after an all night read-a-thon with a slight nap in the middle. I just felt like I couldn’t miss the chance to say what I actually felt and texted my mom to tell her that I love her. This was not a happy book, though moments of it were very nice, and I felt a little let down as it ended. It was one of those endings that you know was coming, and knew it was right but it left me with a greater sense of ambivalence. I think that was her point which I am still not impressed with. Even though, I thank Carol Shield’s for propelling me to tell my mom that I love her, and I think if she reads this, Ms. Shield’s might be pleased with that reaction.


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