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The Stone Angel (Manawaka Sequence)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  6,282 ratings  ·  234 reviews
The Stone Angel, The Diviners, and A Bird in the House are three of the five books in Margaret Laurence's renowned "Manawaka series," named for the small Canadian prairie town in which they take place. Each of these books is narrated by a strong woman growing up in the town and struggling with physical and emotional isolation.

In The Stone Angel, Hagar Shipley, age ninety,
Paperback, 318 pages
Published June 15th 1993 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1964)
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This is one of the best books I have ever read. I don't give 5 stars unless I truly believe that is what it is worth, and Stone Angel is worth the five and more, in my opinion.
Hagar Shipley is a character you will never forget; stubborn, ornery, proud, locked in her own version of her world and unwilling to see it any other way until her dying breath.
The novel opens with a quote from one of the best poems ever written;

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the ligh
Hagar Shipley doesn't have much to be proud of in her life. But as she muses, narrates and slips through time, I felt so drawn to her character. I identified with her in some ways that make me want to re-examine some deeply held assumptions in my own life.

Margaret Laurence so clearly "gets" human nature, what makes people tick and how easily we see faults in others, but not in ourselves.

I thought this book was brilliant. I can't believe it was written 4 decades ago... it could have come out th
Jennifer (aka EM)
Hagar Shipley is one of the finest characters ever created in all literature, and The Stone Angel one of the best depictions of raging against the dying of the light. King Lear, Hagar Shipley. That's all one needs.
Sheila Rocha
May 24, 2012 Sheila Rocha rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Feminists. Plains literature buffs.
A stalwart reflection of the men who shaped her is the resistant spirit of Hagar Shipley. The Stone Angel successfully provides a realistic portrayal of one woman’s life in the prairie towns of western Canada. However, the stone angel of this story was born, I believe, prior to even her own self-recognition.

Hagar says, “The night my son died I was transformed to stone…” (243). Throughout her journey, even as she faces imminent death and resists the mortality of her own body, Hagar’s mind confla
Nicole Yovanoff
I hated this book. I called it the 'Stoned Angel' because I think it would have been better if I were stoned on drugs at the time. as I told my teacher at the time of reading this book. "There have been women who have gone through far worse who aren't such b*tches." I could not relate to the character. yes, she had a hard life, but its hard to sympathize with her when she is making everyone around her's life just as miserable. Horrible boring read. Yes, its 'a Canadian classic,' but what does th ...more
Mr. Troy has chosen a bad day to call. The rib pain is not so intrusive this afternoon, but my belly growls and snarls like a separate beast. My bowels are locked today. I am Job in reverse, and neither cascara nor syrup of figs nor milk of magnesia will prevail against my unspeakable affliction. I sit uncomfortably. I am bloated, full, weighted down, and I fear I may pass wind.

I remember my mother telling me, with great delight, that my younger brother was reading The Stone Angel in high school
I love discovering an author whose writing I so thoroughly enjoyed. Such is the case after reading The Stone Angel, a beautifully written story about a 90-year old woman looking back on her life as she grudgingly adjusts to her final years.

Hagar Shipley is a delightful curmudgeon – witty, cutting, insightful, with a very human blend of both love and resentment for those closest to her. Describing a sister who looked after her ailing mother: “I always felt she had only herself to blame, for she w
Wendy &
This is my favourite book of all time…Not only was she an amazing writer…but imagine writing a book about an old woman!! and it became a Canadian classic!! Apparently she held on to this book for some time after writing it because she didn't think anyone would care to read it…There is so much truth in this novel. Her descriptions of small seemingly insignificant things are so masterfully written that her words paint pictures that enable us to see the beauty in the ordinary..It is so much more th ...more
Terri Jacobson
I really enjoyed this book, published in 1964. It's the story of Hagar Shipley, a 90 year-old Canadian woman who survived the Great Depression. She looks back over her life and realizes that her pride and her sense of propriety have deeply influenced her relationships, and in many ways limited them. The book is written with sympathy and humor. I liked the repeated image of the stone angel. The book is well-written and memorable.
This book creates a great conflict within me.

On one hand, it is exceptionally well written. At no point does the characterization waver, the premise is good, and writing itself is fantastic.

On the other hand, I honestly do not like the main Hagar. I can not stand her. I feel as though she is one of the characters that you either come to love or hate with no in between, and I am not one of her fans. I find her bitter, twisted, mean, and hypocritical. I had a difficult time reading the novel beca
Margaret Laurence is one of the best authors --- and most under-read -- in North America today. Her characters are deep and rich, and the story is beautiful. I know she is in the Canadian canon... just goes to show how much we must me missing in the States by emphasizing American authors.
As a Canadian high school student, I was forced to read this unpleasant piece of trash. A crusty old woman bitches about her life and how miserable she is. The end. Fuck you Hagar Shipley...and you too, Margaret Laurence.
This is my first Margaret Laurence book, a bit of an awkward confession for someone who likes to push Canadian authours on fellow readers. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. This is a great story, painful and beautiful and real. I think I have sometimes lumped all Canadian authours into a group called “Too Intellectual for Me” and as a result I have missed out on some great writing that I am only now beginning to enjoy.

Hagar Shipley is the main character, an elderly widow liv
"Now I am rampant with memory."(p.5)

"It was not so very long after we wed, when I first felt my blood and vitals rise to meet his. He never knew. I never let him know. I never spoke aloud, and I made certain that all the trembling was inner. He had an innocence about him, I guess, or he’d have known. How could he not have known? Didn’t I betray myself in rising sap, like a heedless and compelled maple after a winter? But no. He never expected such a thing, and so he never perceived it. I prided
I confess that I didn’t like this book that much. The 3 stars are there because I do recognize the literary merits of Laurence’s writing. Actually her character development is also very good. But I had such a dislike for Hagar, the main character that it impeded any enjoyment of the book.

I have before read books where I found the writing lacking, and yet I liked the story and characters. I have been left after reading such books with the sad feeling that the story had deserved a better writer.
Carol Kosse
Wow! How have I not heard of Margaret Laurence before? A modern classic, indeed. This is one beautifully written novel. My copy (virago, 1987) also includes a very good afterward by Sara Maitland so make sure your copy has this if you purchase it. I agree completely with her thoughts about the novel but could never communicate it as well.

If you feel you can only read 1 book this summer about a strong willed old person reflecting back on his/her life, do yourself a favour and choose this instead
Jane Air
I literally dropped my final year of English class because of this book. It was the most dismal, self-congratulatory, spiteful, misandristic, boring piece of crap I've ever tried to read. And no, I never finished it.

So guess what book we had to read a couple years later when I wanted to get my last English credit? That's right, The Stone f'n Angel. Strike two.

Thank you Margaret Laurence for this piece of Canadiana nobody really wanted.
Rebecca Waters
I have decided you must be of a certain age to appreciate Stone Angel. I must have reached that age. I love the way Margaret Laurence takes the reader inside the head of an aging woman. She's crusty and set in her ways…but at her age I might be, too. I'm beginning to see the elderly in a different light. The book only enhances the notion that we become the people we are because of our life experiences and we often misunderstand people around us. I know this is a classic in Canada, but new to me. ...more
Many of us bristle over ‘school textbook’ and ‘award-winner’. If you imagined “The Stone Angel” would make a good show of refinement but isn’t a five-star page-turner: it is! I’m a gothic mystery, paranormal fan; seldom enthusiastic without a ghost. My marvel at this impressively-crafted book is absolute. It became a 2007 film. I didn’t care for it as a pupil. At 14, we find no adventure in hardship nor corporal punishment; though minor. This time, my eye caught stunningly astute, absorbing emot ...more
At close to ninety years of age, Hagar Shipley is struggling to maintain some control over her own existence. Always a stubborn, proud, and driven woman, Hagar has not changed or mellowed with age. In fact, she believes that the idea that extreme old age changes who we are was created by younger people who are "somehow comforted by the picture of old ladies feeding like docile rabbits on the lettuce leaves of other times". Instead of peacefully existing in her memories, Hagar struggles to mainta ...more
Reading this novel about a 95-year-old woman from a prairie town in Manitoba, I kept thinking of how seldom frontier fiction tells the stories of frontier women. The genre has so long relegated them to the sidelines of action-adventure stories about men, it seems not even odd to find them mostly missing from the panoramic narrative of the West.

Hagar Currie in Margaret Laurence’s novel shows what it might have been like to enrich that picture with stories reflecting lives actually lived by women
Margaret Laurence is one of my favourite Canadian authors and The Stone Angel is her most famous novel, but when I read it years ago, I didn’t like it nearly as much as A Jest of God. I’m so happy that I decided to re-read it! This is a book that I think you can only fully appreciate when you’ve had more life experience. I loved it this time and thought the writing and characterization were brilliant. Hagar Shipley is a stubborn, proud, and difficult 90 year old woman who lives with her son Marv ...more
This was a breathtaking look at a woman's life, through flashbacks and the confusion that comes with age. I loved that the characters paralleled biblical figures(Hagar is the name of an old testament character) and how Margaret Laurence uses flowers in her imagery to represent the main characters life(free spirited and the more socially approved of). I found it touching how 90 year old Hagar struggles with maintaining her pride, her memory and her independence even as we all see it slowly slip a ...more
Loved this book. I have had it for years and put off reading it because it never appealed to me. I took it on a camping trip so I would be forced to read it and I loved it. The main character, a 90 year old woman who is in declining health remembers her life in the small prairie town of Manawaka. The woman, Hagar, is insufferable. A crotchety old doll who can hardly give a good word to anyone. The thing is she has always been that way and her present position of having other people make decision ...more
The CBC has a list called "100 Novels That Make You Proud to Be Canadian" and, after realizing I had only read 8/100 (gasp!) - not counting the ones I was supposed to read in high school but actually only skimmed and barely remember - I made it my mission to read the remaining 92 within the next year (or two, or three).

I picked up The Stone Angel from my local Little Free Library (check it out:, happy to be tackling book 9/100, but not expecting to love this book. I L
Russell Sanders
Margaret Laurence passed in 1987 at age 61, a relative youth compared to the protagonist of her novel The Stone Angel. In this illuminating work, she gives us ninety year old Hagar Shipley, described as a “handsome” woman. Hagar has never been beautiful, but her looks are memorable, finely hewn. She has also spent her life with fierce independence, never really giving herself to anyone—not her husband, not her sons, not her daughter-in-law. Because of her father’s lack of love for her and his st ...more
First off, Stone Angel should not be read by bored high school students. Speaking from personal experience, the most depressing part of high school English is Canadian literature. The curriculum is seemingly designed by sadists who want nothing more than to break the spirits of 11th and 12th graders. On the prairies, along with Margaret Atwood and Sinclair Ross, Margaret Laurence is forced down our throats.

But, The Stone Angel is worth a read. Why? Because if you're from the prairies like me, t
Elizabeth (Alaska)
It has been years since I read this - maybe 40 years. I have remembered it all this time. My library doesn't have other works by Margaret Laurence and more recently I have forgotten to look for her online. Fortunately, I was reminded recently because her work The Diviners is on the 1001 Books List, which I look forward to with great anticipation.
Daniel Kukwa
One of the most remarkable experiences of my high school reading days. I remember picking this up in my Grade 13 English class, thinking it would be a poorly-chosen, boring example of CanLit. Instead, it was such a powerful, blunt, gripping, take-no-prisoners depiction of human pain, suffering and resentment that I ended up reading it TWICE in quick succession. A book full of uneasy subject matter...but an effortless & easy read, time and time again.
On the copy of the book I have, it describes Hagar as "her own woman;" I find this to be anything but the case. Hagar is not her own woman but unchangeably shaped by the circumstances of her life and the people in it.

As a child, her father repetitiously instilled in her an unyielding sense of pride. Eventually she rebells and demands that she live her own life by marrying Bram. Throughout their marriage, Bram, tries to break through her pride but can not, causing her unendurable shame instead.
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Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926 in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada. Both of her parents passed away in her childhood, and Laurence was raised by her aunt and maternal grandfather.

Laurence decided in childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began writing stories in elementary school. Her professional writing career began in 1943 with a job at the
More about Margaret Laurence...
The Diviners A Jest of God A Bird in the House The Fire-Dwellers This Side Jordan

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“I can't change what's happened to me in my life, or make what's not occurred take place. But I can't say I like it, or accept it, or believe it's for the best. I don't and never shall, not even if I'm damned for it.” 7 likes
“Too bad to deprive them, but if a person doesn't look after herself in this world, no one else is likely to.” 6 likes
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