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The Stone Diaries

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  21,353 ratings  ·  1,121 reviews
The Stone Diaries was a prizewinner among prizewinners for Canadian novelist Carol Shields, garnering her the Governor General's Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. In this fictional autobiography of eightysomething Daisy Goodwill, Shields includes a variety of other documents and perspectives--letters that Daisy received over the years, ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 31st 1994 by Vintage Canada (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Tracey
I love this book. It has been 14 years since I have read it and I still remember clearly what it means to me:

Life is long....and in this long life you lead a series of mini-lives. In each "life" you become a different version of you. We are blessed with the chance and sometimes forced against our will to reinvent ourselves again and again until one day we are very old and find that we are living in Florida wearing polyester pantsuits. Did you ever imagine that would be you?

That person you marr
...more
Sarah
A breathtaking and thoroughly original novel. I'm completely in awe of the choices Shields made in the shaping of this narrative. The whole is flawlessly cohesive. The parts are poetry unto themselves.

Essentially, it's a book about loneliness, every kind of loneliness: starved, suffocating, denied, cherished, physical, existential, or simply the result of petty misunderstanding. --And it's not always clear cut. She allows for ambiguity. She allows for the reader's subjective response, whatever t
...more
Suzanna
I didn't like this book, but it was mostly because I didn't like the main character and her lack of personal substance. She never, ever, even once, feels any joy, passion, or grief. There is one period in her life where she appears to experience depression, but again, there is a lack of strong emotion, which really is typical of depression. A person who has three children, marries twice, and is widowed twice, usually experiences some sort of deep emotion. This flaw in her personality had me lack ...more
Grace
This book won a Pulitizer Prize in 1995, and it was an honor well deserved. I'd never even heard of it, I just picked up up at the Goodwill because the description on the back cover intrigued me, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

The story is a fictionalized autobiography of one Daisy Goodwill Flett. Born around the turn of the 20th century and living until the 1980s, Shield's Flett reflects simultaneously on her own tragic life and the life of a North American century. The mix and
...more
Elizabeth
It's ironic that I read this book while I was reading Sex and the City. The two novels are as disparate as different planets. One book is a about an ordinary housewife struggling with life's little trials, the other, a place peppered with big names and obscene money, fur coats and Lear jets.

Guess which one was better.

This book is phenomenal. It's probably the best book I've read in the last year. And it's funny to think about because there is no person, or plot twist, or moment that makes it m
...more
Sally
Jun 12, 2009 Sally rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sally by: Lewis Eng
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book was suggested for the Mostly Literary Fiction book group that I lead at the Hayward Public Library, and we read it for our May 2009 discussion. A poignant and extremely creative approach to the imagining of one fairly ordinary (and extraordinary, in its rendering) individual. My reading of this novel coincided with my 85-year-old mother's illness and hospitalization. I read parts of it while waiting with her in the emergency room, and the following day sitting by ...more
Madeline
"My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill. She was only thirty years old when she took sick, a boiling hot day, standing there in her back kitchen, making a Malvern pudding for her husband's supper. A cookery book lay open on the table: 'Take some slices of stale bread,' the recipe said, 'and one pint of currants; half a pint of raspberries; four ounces of sugar; some sweet cream if available.' Of course she's didvided the recipe in half, there being just the two of them, and what with the scar ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This was my first Carol Shields and it won't be my last, in spite of the fact that I would place this at the bottom of my 4-star reads (or even top of 3-star if I were feeling stingy). I thought the story/characters not especially enjoyable. The presentation was very interesting, however. Shields used a variety of ways to tell the story - different first person narratives, third person narratives, letters, and a mixture of newspaper articles. Some of what she wrote I read several times.
His voic
...more
Stuart
this is a terriffic novel. it is beautifully written and addresses some interesting ideas: the offhand catastrophes of everyday life; the way one person can casually devestate another without feeling a thing; the crime - and inevitability - of wasted time; the ability of women to suffer in silence to their dying breath; the impossibility of accurate autobiography; the sad ridiculousness of the idea that there is any justice to be had in this world.

the author treats her characters in this book a
...more
Heather
What I enjoyed about this book is the perspective of the writing, or lack of. The chapters chronicles Daisy' life, but always from an external perspective. She is never the voice and rarely do we ever "hear" her speak. All the dialogue is provided by those around her and facts are her life are circumstantial. Hearing about her life from multiple voices make me question what are the real facts of her life, what parts are how she is perceived by others, and how she thinks she is perceived communic ...more
Alena
A true case of better late than never, I am so glad I finally read this book. It's both epic and humble, quiet and bold, a true masterpiece in both content and style.

We meet Daisy the moment she is born in 1905 and follow her life until it ends sometime in the 1990's. The book reads almost like an in-depth memoir, except that other perspectives (or versions of Daisy's story) keep breaking into the narrative. Shields also chooses the third person, even when we are reading Daisy's thoughts, which
...more
Dianne
I know this won't win me any friends among Canadian readers, but I don't like Carol Shields writing. Granted I've only read this one through to the end. A few years ago I started another one and didn't like it either so I quit about a quarter of the way in. I suspected at the time I was not a "good" reader and that her books were over my head. I've gained some "reader confidence" since then and learned that it's ok to not like certain styles of writing just on the basis of personal taste. Hence ...more
Trish
I read this quite some time ago, and could never think of an adequate review. It's simply a wonderful book. It follows in exquisite detail the life of Daisy Stone in ten chapters: Birth 1905, Childhood 1916, Marriage 1927, Love 1936, Motherhood 1947, Work 1955-1964, Sorrow 1965, Ease 1977, Illness and Decline 1985, Death. Daisy's life is ordinary but utterly absorbing; through the years, the reader almost slips inside her skin, sharing her experiences.

Quotable
A thought comes into her head: that
...more
Nranger7
I guess I cannot stand Pulitzer Prize winning books. I have yet to read one that I've enjoyed. I actually was disappointed that the author passed away simply because I couldn't tell her how much I disliked this book.

I'm guessing the changes from first person to third person were delibrate and artsy-fartsy, but I found it annoying. I barely got through the first chapter because I was sick and tired of the constant explanations of how the character of Mercy was a large woman. (I get it! She's fat
...more
John
Like finding a shoebox in the attic.

Here is the life of Daisy presented mostly through narration, but buttressed by letters, tombstones, photographs (which occasionally contradict the narrative), words etched into a Victorian plate, a luncheon menu, Aunt Daisy's Lemon Pudding recipe, to-do lists, a list of books read and a sheet with every address Daisy lived.

People are introduced and explained, summed up, classified. I envy anyone able to boil down other people to an understandable core. Still
...more
Sommer
Jan 13, 2008 Sommer added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sommer by: sadistic teacher
Ugh, love/hate relationship with this one... I read it for an English course in college where all of the required novels were Pulitzer Prize winners from the 90s. Again, I had a sadistic teacher who put together a list of the most depressing books to win in the 90s: The Hours, Mambo Kings, Rabbit at Rest, etc. Granted most of the winners in the 90s were works oozing depressive themes, he still could have inserted a more uplifting selection in there.

So basically this book was uber depressing when
...more
Amy
"The Stone Diaries" is not action-packed. It is painfully and heartfully realistic. It is not just women's lit, as emotions and relationships are not the driving forces; it is also beautiful historic prose, set against the span of the 20th century. And it is not hopeful and mushy with happy-soul feelings at the end; but it is exquisite attempt to capture the complexities of one's life; one's family and friends; and one's place and purpose in this crazy, non-linear world.

Carol Shield's epic nove
...more
S.
I expected this to be dull, and embraced it with the gratitude the reader feels when the book turns out not to be dull at all. There were many elements I liked, beginning with the rare first-person omniscient point of view, making this a ‘fictitious autobiography.’ Usually you have to be dead (as in The Lovely Bones) or death itself (as in The Book Thief) to pull that pov off. There are parts of the book with input and letters from other characters, and there are parts which really seem to be in ...more
Mary
I first read this novel around 1995 when I was in a book discussion group. I did like it a lot, thought it was a rich piece of literature. And it made me curious about other works of Carol Shields. So I've read a number of her works.
About a month ago, I decided to reread THE STONE DIARIES. Much of it I'd forgotten, and it was odd to read my occasional pencil-written comments; still, I found that I agreed with my "younger self" in many cases about passages I found meaningful. I highly recommend
...more
Jeanette
Oh, how utterly substantial this ordinary life tale runs. Having read this in my middle years, I now reread it within a completely different life period and enjoyed it even more. How rich the language, without having to use foul chorus calls of trite ranting or other slurs. It's absolutely delightful to read words such as "larky" again.

The life far less molded by electronic, media cultural standards. A life begun in great sorrow and also having patches of unsought fulfillment scattered along the
...more
Dominick
What a colossal bore. Typically post-modern in its knowing subversions. Oh look, no plot! Oh look, we can never really know anybody! (Isn't that a novel insight?) Oh look, a character supposedly telling her own story in a novel written mostly in the third person (not to mention the present tense; I should be grateful, I suppose, that Shields is at least fond of complete sentences and proper punctuation)! Daisy, our protagonist and putative diarist, might as well not exist; "her" story barely add ...more
Chantal
The writing in Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries reminds me of the goal we women set out for ourselves as we approach our lighted mirrors in the morning: We slather on creams and foundations, liners and lipsticks all in effort to create a natural look. When make-up is applied correctly, it shouldn’t look like a lady is wearing any at all. Shield’s writing is like this. It’s seamless. Her words work so well on the page that a reader, even one studying craft, moves swiftly past them to be lost in ...more
Carys
The Stone Diaries tells the life story of Daisy Goodwill, an ordinary woman, except of course, there is no such thing as an ordinary woman. It follows Daisy from her birth to her death and records her triumphs and disasters, which are all of the kind that you or I might expect to experience. Shields is quoted as saying, 'none of the novels I read seemed to have anything to do with my life. So that was the kind of novel I tried to write - the novel I couldn't find.' The Stone Diaries is full of r ...more
Priti
The scope and the tone of the book recalled to me the novels, Gilead and One of Ours. All three novels are narratives of nostalgia, almost elegiac in their expression, although the melancholic and emotional overtones are much less manifest in The Stone Diaries. Daisy Goodwill, was born with no with no claims to distinction, except for the fact from her birth to death, the world changed almost beyond recognition. This novel details Daisy’s life, spanning almost a century, showing how her life pla ...more
Zorena
Sometimes simple stories tell things best. No gimmicks or special effects just the impact of an ordinary life on one's own memories. The reader can decide whether it's depressing or just the way life can be. Sure our protagonist has her share of tragedy but haven't we all?

I liked how Shields presented Daisy's life from every perspective but her own. I also liked how each chapter was a different turning point or stage in her life and not one continuous story from birth to death. Some of the lists
...more
Jason
I don't know what took me so long, but this was wonderful. CanLit, beautiful prose, does some INTERESTING things with genre, and GARDENS! Basically my dream.
Mary Kenyon
I wanted to love this book, to be a "literary reader" of a Pulitzer prize-winning book. I can see why my good friend, a poet, loved this book...many paragraphs are pure poetry and there are several times I read over a paragraph just to take all the beautiful language in. That said, there were also times I just skimmed through wordy paragraphs. I have always been that kind of reader, and yes, writer. So the fact that Shields might use two paragraphs to describe something that could have been desc ...more
Jen
The Stone Diaries is the life story of Daisy Goodwill an “every woman” born in 1905. The story is told using multiple narratives and forms (letters, diary entries, photos, etc). Chapters are titled after Daisy’s major life events or milestones: Birth, Childhood, Marriage, Love, Motherhood, Work). Daisy seems to be very ordinary in every sense of the word. She marries, has children, works, is of “moderate intelligence” and an average-sized ego. A surface read of this book would result in an inter ...more
Zeitgeist
Dec 01, 2008 Zeitgeist rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Now I know why Author Shields won the Pulitzer..a remarkable achievement. The literary world will be much poorer with her recent death.
Recently, I heard about the "Listening Project", to record thoughts, experiences, voices, histories of those older than us as the best gift ever this Christmas...this book chronicles the life of one of the 6.5 billion silent,existential heros/heroines that currently inhabit this planet.
Bogdan
After reading this novel, I have an indefinite feeling, as I did not managed to spell out clearly the essence. The life of Daisy Goodwill that constitutes the center of this novel in the format of the 19th century autobiographies, is not extraordinary in any way. You can feel her efforts to be a happy person, but ultimately, she fails to be content with her life and despite having a large family and close friends, loneliness is the best characterization of her life.

It is a novel that apparently
...more
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Tackling the Puli...: The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields, 1995) 11 29 Mar 12, 2013 07:21AM  
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Carol Ann Shields was an American-born Canadian author. She is best known for her successful 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Governor General's Award. Her novel Swann won the Best Novel Arthur Ellis Award in 1988.


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“There are chapters in every life which are seldom read, and certainly not aloud.” 27 likes
“Here's to another year and let's hope it's above ground.” 22 likes
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