Selaine Henriksen's Reviews > Unless

Unless by Carol Shields
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May 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: thought-provoking

Eclectic barely describes my reading selections. I wonder, when I get to 20 books, what sort of recommendations Goodreads is going to give me. Moving on from the YA "Chimes" and the medieval fantasy stuff, I arrive at Carol Shields' "Unless".

She has her protagonist state that she is not unaware of the irony of a writer writing about another writer. That's the protagonist speaking so Carol, the author, is writing about a writer writing about a writer, writing about a writer. There is an element of autobiography to the story in that there is a controlled yet seething anger underneath this novel. It crests in the letters her protagonist writes but doesn't send, and feels like the whole thing might have been a polemic if Carol Shields had let herself go. Instead one knows oneself in the hands of a controlled, assured writer, that one will be guided to a satisfactory conclusion and so one is.

There are many techniques she uses in this novel that are worth studying. She jumps from past to present to future self and it all makes sense in the narrative. How she leads us on these great leaps is extraordinary. Her control of a sentence is remarkable. I feel I could study this book alone whenever I need to examine how to use a particular technique. It reminded me of Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook" in that the interior world of the protagonist is not distinct from the exterior world and yet there is no discord between the two.

I enjoyed "Unless" and found it difficult to put down.
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