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Manawaka Sequence

The Stone Angel

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In her best-loved novel, The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence introduces Hagar Shipley, one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Stubborn, querulous, self-reliant – and, at ninety, with her life nearly behind her – Hagar Shipley makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence.

As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past. We meet Hagar as a young girl growing up in a black prairie town; as the wife of a virile but unsuccessful farmer with whom her marriage was stormy; as a mother who dominates her younger son; and, finally, as an old woman isolated by an uncompromising pride and by the stern virtues she has inherited from her pioneer ancestors.

Vivid, evocative, moving, The Stone Angel celebrates the triumph of the spirit, and reveals Margaret Laurence at the height of her powers as a writer of extraordinary craft and profound insight into the workings of the human heart.

From the Hardcover edition.

328 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1964

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About the author

Margaret Laurence

56 books335 followers
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 town newspaper, and continued in 1944 when she entered the Honours English program at Winnipeg's United College (now the University of Winnipeg.) After graduating in 1947, she was hired as a reporter for The Winnipeg Citizen. That same year, she married Jack Laurence, a civil engineer.

Jack Laurence's profession took the couple to England, Somalia, and eventually Ghana, where Laurence gained an appreciation for Africa and the storytelling traditions of its peoples. It was during the couple's time in Africa that their two children, Jocelyn and David, were born, and when Laurence began to work seriously on her writing. Her book of essays about and translations of Somali poetry and prose was published in 1954 as A Tree for Poverty. A collection of short stories, The Tomorrow-Tamer, as well as a novel, This Side Jordan (both focusing on African subjects) were published after Laurence returned home to Canada. Laurence's fiction was thereafter concerned with Canadian subjects, but she maintained her interest in African literature and in 1968 published a critical analysis of Nigerian literature, Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists 1952-1966. Present in her African works is a concern with the ethical dilemma of being a white colonialist living in colonial Africa.

Laurence and her family returned to Canada in 1957. They moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they stayed for five years. In 1962 Laurence and her husband separated, and she moved to London, England for a year, followed by a move to a cottage in Buckinghamshire for ten years, although she visited Canada often.

During this period, Laurence wrote her first works with Canadian subject matter. The Stone Angel was published in 1964, and was the first of Laurence's group of "Manawaka novels", so called because they each take place in the fictional prairie town of Manawaka, a community modelled after Laurence's hometown of Neepawa, Manitoba. The Stone Angel was followed by A Jest of God in 1966 (for which she won her first Governor General's Award,) The Fire-Dwellers in 1969, and A Bird in the House in 1970. Laurence received a great deal of critical and commercial acclaim in Canada, and in 1971 was honoured by being named a Companion to the Order of Canada.

In the early 1970s, Laurence returned to Canada and settled in Lakefield, Ontario. During this time she continued to write and held positions as writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, and Trent University. In 1974, Laurence completed her final novel, The Diviners, for which she received the Governor General's Award and the Molson Prize. The Diviners was followed by a book of essays, Heart of a Stranger, published in 1976, and several children's books: Jason's Quest, The Olden-Days Coat, Six Darn Cows, and The Christmas Birthday Story. Her memoir, Dance on the Earth was published posthumously in 1987.

Margaret Laurence committed suicide on January 5, 1987 at her home in Lakefield after learning that her recently diagnosed lung cancer was terminal. She is buried in Neepawa Cemetery, a few metres away from the stone angel which inspired her novel of the same name.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 591 reviews
Profile Image for Julie G .
870 reviews2,683 followers
October 2, 2017
When I was nine-years-old my only uncle lost control of his car on an icy road, and, after flipping several times, was thrown violently from his vehicle.

His mother (my grandmother) received a call that night that no parent ever wants to receive. Her son was in the hospital, was in very serious condition, and could she come soon, please?

My grandmother arrived at the hospital to find that her handsome, vibrant, newly-engaged youngest son was paralyzed from the neck down.

And through the years I have wondered. . . did she collapse immediately? Did she scream? How long did it take before she fell completely apart, and what was the glue that put her parts back together?

I never learned the answers to any of these questions (how could I ever have brought myself to ask?), I only know that, for the next year of her life, she drove over an hour to the hospital each day, to oversee the installation of ventilators, feeding and drainage tubes, and to offer encouragement to her 29-year-old son. Of course, honey, of course it's going to be okay.

She met the fiancée out for coffee, where the young woman nervously asked if she could go ahead and break off their engagement for her?

She insisted he have the dignity of fresh, proper clothes every day instead of hospital gowns and she often laundered them well into the night, after driving the long commute home.

She stayed every day, helped dress her grown son's broken body and held bent straws filled with water to his lips.

And, at the year's end. . . she had a son dead from pneumonia and a diagnosis of cervical cancer.

This is a true story, and my grandmother (who died 7 years ago) would have been mad as hell at me for telling it to you. She'd have said it was none of your business.

And maybe it isn't. But, I could not believe it, I just could not believe it. When I met the protagonist of The Stone Angel, Hagar Currie Shipley, I found myself staring my grandmother right in the face.

Hagar IS my grandmother. She's a woman who was broken by tragedy and disappointment. A woman who watched loved ones die tragically and who woke up one day to find herself a prisoner of her own bitterness.

Because, you see, when we grandkids started flying in to spend summers with Grandmother, two years after the tragedy. . . we were the recipients of a great hostess, a good cook, and a devoted concierge, but we were also the recipients of an anger and a bitterness that could never be resolved and could never go away.

To be completely frank, I thought my grandmother was a real bitch.

Just as Marvin and Doris (Hagar's son and daughter-in-law) feel about Hagar. And they are conflicted by familial obligation, but also so very tired of the verbal barbs and the never-ending responsibility of caring for a person who can't ever seem to be kind or thankful.

And this author, Margaret Laurence, is a genius, because she takes a real bitch like Hagar. . . and she cleverly juxtaposes her present with her past and the aging mother/mother-in-law with her aging, adult kids, and writes, “How you see a thing—it depends which side of the fence you're on.”

And I don't particularly like Hagar or my grandmother any more than I did at the start of this book, but I came to feel that I understood both women better by the end of it.

Hagar's unspoken but felt regrets cut me deeply to my core.

And it made me realize. . . some people just carry the weight of their broken bones better than others.
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews108 followers
September 15, 2021
Wow, beautiful writing!

(Stone Angel, Christine Ray, wordpress.com)

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

~Dylan Thomas

The Stone Angel is about old age, about surviving through uncertain times and life situations, and about the perspective of life through a woman`s eyes. This is the brilliantly narrated story of Hagar Shipley, a cranky, stubborn, proud and ‘rebellious’ woman, who finds peace and starts showing kindness during her old age. ‘Being proud’ appears to be the reason behind Hagar surviving a difficult life, and this also becomes a hindrance for her from developing positive and loving relationships. Hagar realises this fact close towards her end ["Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear."].

An account of life`s realisation, unburdening, finding peace and most importantly self-reflection.

She (Hagar) is a stone angel, who is strong, hard and stubborn, and with time finds peace and kindness, comes to terms and gives up the heart of stone.
Profile Image for Carol.
348 reviews323 followers
December 31, 2017
“Old age ain't no place for sissies.” ― Bette Davis

My mother died 27 years ago. She was in her mid-eighties. Unlike Hagar Currie Shipley, her mind was still sharp but her body was failing her in every possible way. She had diabetes and congestive heart failure; but, she ultimately died of liver disease from a tainted blood transfusion.

I thought of my mom so much while reading this wonderful novel. Mother bore her many physical afflictions with grace and also a deep gratitude for her family’s support until the end. Still, like Hagar Shipley, she was petrified of being placed in a nursing home…which never happened.

This novel moves back and forth in time, tracing the life of Hagar Shipley, born Hagar Currie in the Canadian prairie town of Manawaka. Hagar is a crotchety 90-year old currently living with her son, Marvin, and daughter-in-law, Doris. As she faces the end of her life, she reflects with some regret upon her relationships with her father, brothers, husband and sons. Although she could be judgmental, stubborn and prideful, her hardscrabble life on the prairie was a gut-wrenching tale at times. I never for once pitied Hagar. But, I came to understand the source of her bitterness by the story's end.

When her son and daughter-in-law suggest a move to a nursing home for her well-being (and their convenience) Hagar rebels. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her and admiration for her moxie in old age. As ornery as she was, her private thoughts about her daughter-in-law made me laugh out loud.

This is a beautifully written and poignant story about the emotional complexities of ageing and losing one’s independence. Highly recommended!
May 27, 2019
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: think again! I’m a gothic mystery, paranormal fan; seldom enthusiastic without a ghost. My marvel at this impressively-crafted book is absolute, which became a 2007 film. I didn’t care for it as a pupil. At 14, we find no adventure in hardship; although those aspects are minor. This time, my eye caught stunningly astute, absorbing emotions.

The course I followed is that of a well-bred lady marrying a crass widower; angering her Dad. She is no shrinking violet, trapped or bossed around. We enjoy ‘Hagar Currie Shipley’s’ gumption; keeping a situation calm, or snapping back. In the early 1900s, here is a woman not steered by wagging tongues. For several chapters a compelling heroine, exquisite literary mettle, and Manitoba nature drive interest. ‘Manawaka’ is code for ‘Neepawa’, my fiancé’s hometown and we laughed together at ‘Galloping Mountain’. It obviously doubled for ‘Riding Mountain’! A shift occurred by the time Hagar takes her youngest son to a city. Not only do the memoirs reach their peak. The page time of the elderly storyteller outweighs it. The 95 year-old version of our narrator is undeniably riveting.

As present day Hagar dominates, sympathy skyrockets. We are outraged her daughter-in-law ‘Doris’, misreads Hagar’s competency so flimsily. We become champions against underestimating the elderly. Then an astonishing, fast-paced adventure takes place, that rises to a fever pitch! This local classic, of which I’ve been proud at arm’s length, became a novel I lapped up in two days. I’m awe-stricken by an author capable of weaving two vividly memorable threads, that culminate in the sharpest understanding. It’s a loss that Margaret killed herself upon a diagnosis of terminal cancer.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,000 reviews438 followers
January 9, 2022
This was a really good read. I read it in one day. I’m not sure how I came across it. I thought it might have been a website of Virago Modern Classics because they do list two of her novels, but I didn’t see this one in the list. Oh well...whoever(s) influenced me in getting this book, thank you! 😊

I think I have read several works of fiction in which the main character is a grumpy old women or man. Olive Kitteridge (I guess she was not considered old though) comes to mind. I hope that is a fair comparison. Someone who is pretty nasty but is honest in her being nasty, with on rare occasion a glimpse of kindness or something approaching that (regret at being mean towards somebody).

Hagar, who tells the story of her life in the first person, was grumpy and nasty and mean a good part of the book. And she on most occasions did not regret thinking or saying negative/grumpy/nasty things. But there were occasions where she would say something nice. Or she would say something nasty that she regretted saying, or say something nasty even though one part of her didn’t want to say it, but perhaps because she was pretty much a grumpy nasty person, she could not help herself and blurted out whatever was nasty.

This woman also reminded me of the main character in a book (by Horton Foote)/movie, A Trip to Bountiful. (If you have not seen the movie, please do. I’ve seen it multiple times I loved it so much). Except that woman, Carrie Watts (played by Geraldine Page) was inherently a good woman. I was reminded of her because she did flee her son and daughter-in-law once because she wanted to go back to her roots, Bountiful Texas, and Hagar fled her son and daughter-in-law because they wanted to put her in a nursing home.

But I am straying. 😐

Hagar Shipley is in her 90s when we meet her. She is living with her older son and his wife, and they are in their 60s and their wish, as I just said above, is to put her in a nursing home. Given her temperament I couldn’t blame them. Anyway we get a good description of her life from the horse’s mouth, of her growing up in a house without a mother with a strict father, about her marrying a man, Brampton Shipley, the father did not want her to marry, her older son Marvin and the younger son Johnny who she favored but didn’t particularly spoil...about her living on her own with Johnny....what happened to Johnny...and now living in the present time with her mind and her body falling apart.

The inner sleeve of the book jacket says this, and I have to wholeheartedly agree:
• A novelist of uncompromising honesty, Margaret Laurence refuses to let pathos obscure the harsh outline of Hagar Shipley’s character.

If the author had sugar-coated this woman, or made her a bit hard on the outside but a sweet marshmallow on the inside, this book would not have worked for me. It worked for me because I really believed in the character. She was mostly nasty but honest in her nastiness with an occasional glimmer of nicety or a glimmer of regret for acting/thinking the way she did. She seemed really real to me...I think I even saw part of me in her. 🙁

At times the writing either made me laugh out loud or because it was such good writing made me shake my head.
• (She’s describing somebody with uncouth manners.) He would have put his elbows on the table if he had been an apostle at the Last Supper.
• yes, and trip, more than likely, tumble and break my neck, rouse Marvin and Doris like scared ducks from a swamp.
• Why is it always so hard to find the proper one to blame? Why do I always want to find the one? As though it really helped.
• She’s describing her conversation with a Reverend that she does not like who wants to convince her to pray to Jesus) ... He stares upward at the air, as though birdwatching. Perhaps he hopes for a discarded angel feather to drift down and spur him on.

In closing I will reiterate this was an unexpected joyful good read! Please consider it for your TBR list if you have not read this. 🙂 🙃 😉

• I could not agree with this reviewer more! http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/bo...
Some snippets from other reviewers:
• “This is a revelation, not impersonation. The effect of such skilled use of language is to lead the reader towards the self-recognition that Hagar misses.”—Robertson Davies, New York Times
• ”It is [Laurence’s] admirable achievement to strike, with an equally sure touch, the peculiar note and the universal; she gives us a portrait of a remarkable character and at the same time the picture of old age itself, with the pain, the weariness, the terror, the impotent angers and physical mishaps, the realization that others are waiting and wishing for an end.”—Honor Tracy, The New Republic
• ”Miss Laurence is the best fiction writer in the Dominion and one of the best in the hemisphere.”—Atlantic
• ”[Laurence] demonstrates in The Stone Angel that she has a true novelist’s gift for catching a character in mid-passion and life at full flood. . . . As [Hagar Shipley] daydreams and chatters and lurches through the novel, she traces one of the most convincing—and the most touching—portraits of an unregenerate sinner declining into senility since Sara Monday went to her reward in Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth.”—Time
• ”Laurence’s triumph is in her evocation of Hagar at ninety. . . . We sympathize with her in her resistance to being moved to a nursing home, in her preposterous flight, in her impatience in the hospital. Battered, depleted, suffering, she rages with her last breath against the dying of the light. The Stone Angel is a fine novel, admirably written and sustained by unfailing insight.”—Granville Hicks, Saturday Review
• ”The Stone Angel is a good book because Mrs. Laurence avoids sentimentality and condescension; Hagar Shipley is still passionately involved in the puzzle of her own nature. . . . Laurence’s imaginative tact is strikingly at work, for surely this is what it feels like to be old.”—Paul Pickrel, Harper’s
Profile Image for Charles.
175 reviews
July 13, 2022
Such a powerful voice. While there are so many other things to look for in fiction, little else charms me more - or faster - than an inspired, well-oiled interior monologue. Precious, clever fragments of it throughout what would have been otherwise a downward-spiraling family drama elevate this novel to unexpected heights, instead.

Margaret Laurence nails it with this book.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,887 reviews488 followers
May 5, 2018
And someday I would like to write a novel about an old woman. Old age is something which interests me more and more- the myriad ways people meet it, some pretending it doesn't exist, some terrified by every physical deterioration because that final appointment is something they cannot face.... Margaret Laurence 17 March 1957(letter written by ML to Adele Wiseman)

First published in 1964, Canadian author, Margaret Laurence (often confused with Canada's other book writing "Margaret") tells the tale of 90 year old Hagar Shipley who in the last days of her life reflects back on a lifetime of memories.

Unlike a lot of Canadians, my grade 11 English teacher decided not to read The Stone Angel with us and instead gave old Richler a spin. Since I have never read him after that and it took me years to attempt an Atwood (the other Margaret) novel after reeling from a horrible essay we were forced to read in that class.

It's probably a saving grace that I waited until I had witnessed the aging and death of three of my grandparents before experiencing this story. Because yes, as a teen I don't think I would have appreciated the curmudgeonly Hagar. Having witnessed my paternal grandmother's descent into dementia, the determination of my father and his siblings to keep their mother in her own home as long as possible, the long term stay in the hospital and then the nursing home. Well, that experience certainly helps me empathise with Hagar's son, Marvin and daughter in law, Doris. But as a teen,when I still had active paternal grandparents who hadn't yet lost a child( a tragic death which aged them overnight), I don't think I would have quite enjoyed this bleak story very much.

All in all, I would certainly recommend to readers, but think I wouldn't really choose it as classroom novel.
Profile Image for Kerri.
972 reviews344 followers
June 6, 2021
This book was a gift from my friend Carolyn and I am pleased to say that I loved it just as much as I had hoped I would. It is a truly special book, one that beautifully examines an entire life. It's almost hard to believe that it is relatively short -- 308 pages in my edition, yet it covers so much without ever feeling hurried or cramped. Hagar Shipley is quite the character, a woman who feels so vivid and real as soon as she is introduced. Throughout the book she looks back on her past, while also dealing with her present situation. Elderly, feeling pushed to the side, often treated in a condescending manner by those around her. She especially struggles in her relationship with her daughter-in-law, a woman I found understandably irritating, though I could also appreciate that she was the one dedicating all her time to caring for Hagar, which would be difficult at the best of times let alone with some whose personality clashes with your own.

Hagar's frustration at her treatment is wonderfully captured and also serves as a good reminder of how easy it can be to unintentionally undermine someone, and how people often end up treating the elderly like small children and not people who have lived full and interesting lives, people who have their own valid thoughts and opinions who still have things to offer the world.

The difference between the relationship Hagar has with each of her sons was also an aspect of the book I found particularly well done. I don't suppose a parent ever intends to love one child more than another, but the reasons why we love people don't always make sense, and it isn't always fair. I did have sympathy for Marvin here -- the faults she finds in him are ones I understand not being drawn to, but he is her child and she treats him quite poorly. Even in this though she feels relatable, wonderfully human in all her many flaws. There were moments when I was so deeply frustrated her, but I also understand that we can't help the way we feel.

I am very grateful to Carolyn for sending this to me all the way from Canada. It has become an instant favourite and Margaret Laurence has become an author I would like to read more of.
Profile Image for Barbara.
343 reviews42 followers
November 2, 2016
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 light.

Hagar has raged through her whole life and does not intend on going out of it softly or quietly.

This book can affect you on so many levels that it is hard to categorize. It's about being a women in a very non-feminist world that is still relatable today. It is about being a parent and a child. It is about the mistakes both make. It is about old age and the rage against personal introspection. It is about love and forgiveness. It is about letting go both literally and figuratively.

Laurence has created a character who insists on being unforgettable.
Profile Image for BrokenTune.
750 reviews202 followers
July 3, 2015

The question I have is: Would I have read and enjoyed The Stone Angel if it had not been considered a Canadian classic and if a RL friend of mine did not highly recommend it?

Well, I have read it, and I can see why it is considered a classic. There is so much symbolism in this book, you can draw classroom material for years from it. And of course, it is always nice to read a story with a strong female lead - and you hardly get any stronger female leads than Hagar. Tho, of course, one could argue that "strong" and "obnoxious" are not the same, and that Hagar's pride and stubbornness are more of a weakness than a strength.

But was the book enjoyable?

I can't say I loved it. For all it's metaphorical word play and stoicism and irony - Hagar was pretty unlikeable, the characters around her were not that likable either, but I did admire the sass and gumption that the characters brought up in dealing with each other.

I'll probably give Laurence's other books in this cycle a miss, tho.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,351 reviews516 followers
October 23, 2015
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 and that he was disgusted by all of the references to the old woman's bowels. I suppose I joined in on the laugh at the time, since it was always good fun in our home to laugh at the things that made my humourless little brother uncomfortable. I know I didn't study this book in school, and although I thought I had read it before now, the only thing that stuck out in my memory as I devoured it this time is poor old Hagar's bowels. And this time, I am left feeling protective of the old woman, insisting that she not be an object of disgust or pity or ridicule.

This book is remarkable, not least of all because the main character is just so unlikeable. Ruled by pride passed down from her Scotsman father, Hagar (Currie) Shipley withholds the little kindnesses throughout her life that could have smoothed the way both for herself and for the family that she keeps at arm's length, leading to disasters of varying degrees. At the end of her life, she realises too late what this pride had wrought: Pride was my wilderness and the demon that lead me there was fear. After a visiting pastor sings the old hymn that Hagar has impulsively (perhaps mischievously) asked of him, she has a further insight. As he sings of rejoicing, Hagar is overwhelmed with tears and thinks:

I would have wished it. This knowing comes upon me so forcefully, so shatteringly, and with such a bitterness as I have never felt before. I must always, always, have wanted that- simply to rejoice. How is it I never could? I know, I know. How long have I known? Or have I always known, in some far crevice of my heart, some cave too deeply buried, too concealed? Every good joy I might have held, in my man or any child of mine or even in the plain light of morning, of walking the earth, all were forced to a standstill by some break of proper appearances- oh, proper to whom? When did I ever speak my heart’s truth?

Even so, this is not a redemptive deathbed epiphany; Hagar is not remorseful about the kind words that she has withheld, but full of regrets that she had not allowed herself to feel joy.

This book is also remarkable for the gorgeous prose, and though it was written in 1964, it feels fresh and modern. A favourite passage, while Hagar is on the lam:

If I cry out, who will hear me? Unless there is another in this house, no one. Some gill-netter passing the point might catch an echo, perhaps, and wonder if he'd imagined it or if it could be the plaintive voices of the drowned, calling through brown kelp that's stopped their mouths, in the deep and barnacled places where their green hair ripples out and snags on the green deep rocks. Now I could fancy myself there among them, tiaraed with starfish thorny and purple, braceleted with shells linked on limp chains of weed, waiting until my encumbrance of flesh floated clean away and I was free and skeletal and could journey with tides and fishes.

It beckons a second only. Then I'm scared out of my wits, nearly. Stupid old woman, Hagar, baggage, bulk, chambered nautilus are you? Shut up.

In Survival A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Margaret Atwood quotes the following as the moment that Hagar transcends the CanLit tradition of characters as victims:

I lie here and try to recall something truly free that I've done in ninety years. I can think of only two acts that might be so, both recent. One was a joke - yet a joke only as all victories are, the paraphernalia being unequal to the event's reach. The other was a lie - yet not a lie, for it was spoken at least and at last with what may perhaps be a kind of love.

I found it interesting that what appear to be acts of freewill in the novel , must in Hagar's evaluation have been forced upon her by her pride. At the end of her life, Hagar finally overcomes the victimhood that pride has forced onto her, and through the joke and the lie, finally acts in the best interest of others.

Speaking of Hagar for the last time, is her son Marvin:

"She's a holy terror," he says.

Listening, I feel like it is more than I could now reasonably have expected out of life, for he has spoken with such anger and such tenderness.

When I think of Hagar, and her blocked bowels and her lack of joy and her failing memory and her nightly incontinence and her miserable treatment of the long-suffering daughter-in-law, Doris, it is entirely possible to think of her with a blend of anger and tenderness. Reading through some of the negative reviews here, I need to wonder at the inclusion the The Stone Angel on high school reading lists; perhaps readers need to be a little more connected with the failings of the body and the mind before they can appreciate the honesty of this book; perhaps it takes some degree of life experience to appreciate that you can like a book without liking the people in it.

How it irks me to have to take her hand, allow her to pull my dress over my head, undo my corsets and strip them off me, and have her see my blue veined swollen flesh and the hairy triangle that still proclaims with lunatic insistence a non-existent womanhood.

Of course my little brother was embarrassed to have read that in high school, and somehow, I am embarrassed on Hagar's behalf that those lines can be read unsympathetically by anyone.
Profile Image for Raul.
276 reviews199 followers
November 1, 2022
Hagar Shipley is ninety. She hates depending on people, meaningless banter, showy décor and jewellery and clothing, impropriety, and has the self-awareness to recognize the pride in herself. The life she's led is about to be disrupted when her immediate family plans to leave her in the care of a nursing home, and she decides to make one last act of rebellion.

Through flashbacks the portrait of Hagar's life is slowly pieced together; from her childhood in the Canadian fictional town of Manawaka to her old age, through the formations and tragedies that moulded her to the person she is, in clear simple prose. The most fascinating part of this story, for me, is the way Laurence shows how people can make the same mistakes their parents made with them with their own children, despite knowing better. That they may carry the same prejudices and biases they recognized and, almost, unwittingly act as conduit to whatever cycles they attempted to escape.

This is the kind of story I like. One that can take a character that is normal, with an ordinary life, and with adept precision show the extraordinary forces–internal and external–that propel a life to the shape it takes. The first Margaret Laurence book I've read and looking forward to reading more by her.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books768 followers
November 14, 2020
Hagar Currie Shipley is a prickly, difficult person. At ninety-years old, her fierce independence is butting against physical limitations; her intense pride has trouble dealing with reality. Laurence is not interested in making Hagar sympathetic to the reader and I have no problem with that. I did have a problem with the obvious symbolism, some clunky prose, and the especially clunky transitions from Hagar’s present-day thoughts to relevant incidents of her past.

The big reveal of how her younger son died (not a spoiler, we know this from the beginning) didn’t have the emotional impact I think it was meant to have. Yet, behind the narrated story of Hagar’s past, I did see Laurence’s indictment of the social mores that cause an intelligent woman to have to live with the consequences of choices she made when she was young, as well as how lessons learned from elders irrevocably shape the lives of not only an individual but of succeeding generations, and to their detriment.
Profile Image for Nicole Yovanoff.
143 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2013
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 that say about Canadian literature?
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,614 reviews554 followers
January 25, 2020
Read For Book Club

Hagar Shipley is one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Why? Just That - She is Memorable! She is witty, insightful, miserable and has both love and resentment for those closest to her.
- She puts her daughter in law Doris through the ringer on a daily basis and then calls her a flea.
- She puts June bugs in her hair because they sparkle.
- Her son picks her up in a horse drawn car because the engine is only to be used for emergencies.

I thoroughly enjoyed Margaret Laurence's depiction of a 90 yr old woman looking back on her life as she grudgingly adjusts to her final years.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,694 reviews1,478 followers
November 22, 2022
The three books of the Manawaka Sequence by Margaret Laurence are all set in or around the fictional prairie town Manawaka, based on the author’s hometown Neepawa, Manitoba, Ontario. The times are hard. It is the interwar years of droughts, the Crash and the Depression. The time and the place are the same, but each book zooms in on different characters. In The Stone Angel the ninety-year-old Hagar Shipley and her closest family take center stage. Hagar is stubborn, outspoken and peevish in manner. Many see her as a total pain in the butt. The book is primarily a study of her. Her marriage had been rocky. She strongly favored her second son over her first. The book examines the relationships between mother and sons, as well as the eldest son’s wife. The most recent dispute relates to the decision to place her in a home for the elderly. The question is who exactly this is best for?! And at the same time, which son has been the one most caring and devoted? One mustn’t jump to conclusions.

I found this to be a very difficult book to read. I am going to be straightforward in my explanation. With the recent death of my husband, the question has arisen where I should live. In addition, one’s trust in the medical profession and reliance on doctors is not a given for many of us. The book focuses upon subjects that are emotionally upsetting to me. Had the book not been perceptively written, I doubt it would have upset me. The central question comes down to an analysis of Hagar’s character. I see her as tough. She had to be. She must take care of herself. One can scarcely be weak and submissive, or let’s say polite and sweet, if you are or at least see yourself as being totally alone. See what you think of Hagar. The situations and the relationships come alive for me.

I can, at least to some extent, see myself in Hagar. Her behavior does go too far, but I can in some respects forgive her. It takes her an entire ! Her peevishness, this I can forgive.

Are you able to laugh at yourself? If you say yes, I think you will at times also smile as you read the book. There is humor.

The Stone Angel in the title is positioned at the family grave. For me it symbolizes Hagar’s painful journey through life. It seems to me to be a double of her. Not sure I am right though.

I have told you the most important. Many of my GR friends dislike this book because they dislike Hagar. I could easily relate to its subject matter. I like the book very much, so I am giving it four stars. I do not necessarily need to like a book’s characters, but it does have to make me think.

I listened to this translated into Swedish. The translation felt genuine. The Swedish narration by Barbro Nordin I disliked at the beginning. I thought she mumbled. Having now finished the book, I have completely changed my opinion. I do not know how old Barbro Nordin is, but here in the audiobook she does sound old. The book is read as it should be read. It is hard in the beginning because you do not have clear in your mind who is who and what is going on. I have given the narration four stars, and I think the translation is also very good.

I simply cannot stop now after the second book in the sequence. I have chosen to immediately pick up The Diviners. This should tell you how much I like the author. Margaret Laurence has a style of writing that fits me to a T. Thank you, Rosemarie, for recommending her to me.


Manawaka Sequence
*A Bird in the House 4 stars
*The Stone Angel 4 stars
*The Diviners TBR
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 11 books249 followers
November 11, 2017
When you live to be 90, you will end up seeing a lot of life and losing a lot during it. I came to this novel, a former school text in Canada, rather late in life, but I am glad I did, for it paints a picture of this country’s evolution from the late 19th to the mid 20th century from a woman’s perspective, and reveals the frightening aspects of growing old and insignificant.

Hagar Shipley is an unforgettable character; feisty, cruel, unrelenting and deathly honest. She loves her wastrel younger son but not her dull older one who looks after her well into his sixties. She deserts her husband, Bram, a not-too-successful farmer 14 years her senior, and only comes back to visit when he is dying. She in turn has had fate deal wicked blows to her: losing her mother at birth, her siblings during childhood; her storekeeper father leaves his estate to the town and not to his only surviving daughter, Hagar. Her biggest loss is that of her younger son, John, a tragedy that “transformed her into stone.” The stone angel is found in the Shipley family graveyard, and is a metaphor for Hagar’s transformation through grief and loss into this unbreakable, unreachable person.

The novel alternates between Hagar in her ninetieth year, seeking to escape from being consigned to a nursing home by her older son Marvin and his wife Doris who are running out of energy to care for her, and her random memories of her past. The story lines converge briefly when she is contemplating escape, in the present story, from the house she shares with Marvin and Doris, and in the former story, from Bram. The deterioration of her health and her mind is brilliantly drawn for her narrative starts to have gaps and becomes increasingly unreliable as the novel progresses, until she is finally consigned to a hospital after contracting pneumonia from running away unprotected. Her hospital stay is also well drawn and one gets a vivid picture of hospital wards in the 1950’s— thank God there has been more technological progress today! And it is in hospital that Hagar, the stone angel, makes her way back, by accepting some truths about herself, making amends for her recalcitrance, giving people credit for what they have done, and reaching beyond herself to help others.

I can understand why this was a seminal novel in the 1960’s in Canada. The writing is frank and does not pull any punches, even though the prose is poetic where warranted. The book throws the spotlight on a woman’s world, when much of the literature of the day was of the masculine perspective. The subject of aging and the challenges that it presents is thrust into our faces, and with our aging population, this book retains its currency today. What is sad however, is that although we have progressed technologically in the last half century since this novel was written, a woman in Hagar’s position may not be further ahead today as she was then—we still haven’t cracked the code on preserving the dignity of older people as they lose physical and mental capacity, although we have a host of pharmaceutical drugs to keep their hearts beating.

Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book145 followers
May 21, 2018
Hagar Shipley is a mean, unappreciative, critical old woman, and I loved her.

“'It angers me, and will until I die. Not at anyone, just that it happened that way.’”

This is the story of Hagar’s current struggles, laced with her past recollections. As they unfold, we discover what has hardened her, and we grieve for the mistakes she makes. It’s a meditative story, one that makes you think about what makes people the way they are, and how hard it is for them to change once they’re made. We’re given haunting insight into the pains and fears of growing old.

Laurence writes beautifully. The description of physical and mental decline is so sharp and real, but there’s a strength and dry humor that keeps it from being maudlin. It’s definitely not a happy story, yet I enjoyed every moment in this world.

Margaret Laurence was unknown to me until now. I’m so pleased to have found her (thank you Carol!), and will be reading more of her work soon.

“I’ve often wondered why one discovers so many things too late. The jokes of God.”
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,551 reviews2,535 followers
December 12, 2016
Hagar Shipley has earned the right to be curmudgeonly. Now 90 years old, she has already lived with her son Marvin and his wife Doris for 17 years when they spring a surprise on her: they want to sell the house and move somewhere smaller, and they mean to send her to Silver Threads nursing home. What with a recent fall, gallbladder issues and pesky constipation, the old woman’s health is getting to be more than Doris can handle at home. But don’t expect Hagar to give in without a fight.

This is one of those novels where the first-person voice draws you in immediately. “I am rampant with memory,” Hagar says, and as the book proceeds she keeps lapsing back, seemingly involuntarily, into her past. While in a doctor’s waiting room or in the derelict house by the coast where she runs away to escape the threat of the nursing home, she loses the drift of the present and in her growing confusion relives episodes from earlier life.

Many of these are melancholy: her mother’s early death and her difficult relationship with her father, an arrogant, self-made shopkeeper (“Both of us were blunt as bludgeons. We hadn’t a scrap of subtlety between us”); her volatile marriage to Bram, a common fellow considered unworthy of her (“Twenty-four years, in all, were scoured away like sand-banks under the spate of our wrangle and bicker”); and the untimely deaths of both a brother and a son.

The stone angel of the title is the monument on Hagar’s mother’s grave, but it is also an almost oxymoronic description for our protagonist herself. “The night my son died I was transformed to stone and never wept at all,” she remembers. Hagar is harsh-tongued and bitter, always looking for someone or something to blame. Yet she recognizes these tendencies in herself and sometimes overcomes her stubbornness enough to backtrack and apologize. What wisdom she has is hard won through suffering, but she’s still standing. “She’s a holy terror,” son Marvin describes her later in the novel: another paradox.

Originally from 1964, The Stone Angel was reprinted in the UK in September as part of the Apollo Classics series. It’s the first in Laurence’s Manawaka sequence of five novels, set in a fictional town based on her hometown in Manitoba, Canada. It could be argued that this novel paved the way for any number of recent books narrated by or about the elderly and telling of their surprise late-life adventures: everything from Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared to Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James. I was also reminded of Jane Smiley’s Midwest novels, and wondered if Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries was possibly intended as an homage.

I loved spending time in Hagar’s company, whether she’s marveling at how age has crept up on her—
I feel that if I were to walk carefully up to my room, approach the mirror softly, take it by surprise, I would see there again that Hagar with the shining hair, the dark-maned colt off to the training ring

trying to picture life going on without her—
Hard to imagine a world and I not in it. Will everything stop when I do? Stupid old baggage, who do you think you are? Hagar. There’s no one like me in this world.

or simply describing a spring day—
The poplar bluffs had budded with sticky leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening like shavings of sun on the brown river where the tadpoles danced and the blood-suckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys’ feet.

It was a delight to experience this classic of Canadian literature.

(The Apollo imprint will be publishing the second Manawaka book, A Jest of God, in March.)

With thanks to Blake Brooks at Head of Zeus/Apollo for the free copy for review.

Originally published with images on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Mmars.
525 reviews94 followers
June 29, 2015
Like fine wine, there is literature that needs an acquired taste to be fully appreciated. This is one of those books. The story is as simple as a red table wine, but the intricacies of the writing set it in a class of its own. This is a story that has been done time and again – an aged and unreliable narrator recalling their life.

90-year-old Hagar claims to never have been happy and dislikes most everyone she’s known in her life. She will not accede to leaving her own home, in which she is lives with her docile son Marvin and his wife Doris who bears the brunt of caring for Hagar, for a care facility and does not recognize how much less independent she has become. She has dementia and struggles with her short term memory but is able to recall and tell her past. She is far from likeable, yet after a short struggle acclimating myself to Laurence’s writing, I became fully engaged in the book.

So much is done well here. Laurence has a marvelous sense of word choice that makes all the scenes visual and all the characters knowable. Sentence structure is generally short and her language is usually common.

I think in today’s world, Hagar would be what is known as goth.

“It was spring that day, a different spring from this one. The poplar bluffs were budded with sticky leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening like shavings of sun and the brown river where the tadpoles danced and the bloodsuckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys’ feet. And I rode in the black-topped buggy beside the man who was now my mare.”

“Lottie was podgy as a puffball. She looked as though she’d either burst or bounce if you tapped her. The Dreisers always ran to fat. I didn’t remember her mother very well, who’d died so conveniently young with a bare left hand, but the dressmaker aunt who reared Lottie used to waddle like a goose force-fed for Christmas.”

Oh, she is cutting. And even when she feels gratitude or pleasure she is unable to express it to others. One must note that her mother died young and she had little in the way of affectionate role-modeling from her father. She marries one man to escape another, but accepts that as her choice. She bears two sons. She does go off in search of a life of her own, but returns during his final days at a loss to explain why she is really there. In that house of her marriage, she lives on to this final chapter in her life. This chapter in which dementia takes hold.

This is a marvelous study of character, one of which may or may not be who she once was, but one who stubbornly hangs on to herself to the very, very end.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,215 reviews551 followers
February 7, 2018
Incredible writing skill! She says more in a colloquial and sometimes brutal (within both its intent and its semantics meaning) phrasing than most authors crowd into an entire chapter.

Hagar not going quietly into that good night! What rage against a dying of the light is merely from years, physical condition and experience of a tired and frustrated 90 year old? And what was always there at 5 or 6 or 8 years of age? Margaret Laurence lets you know.

What I thought absolutely the most superlative in this whole novel? It was that this author had Hagar always complaining of some mettle in or by "the other". And regardless of who "the other" was or became, she did exactly that same brand of mettle or worse herself in the very next paragraph. Oftentimes in the very next sentence. She loves exactly what she hates too. But never calls that first by any name, word, condition that would be connected to it either.

It was not 5 star in enjoyment after the first 200 pages. I found the last 1/3rd difficult and as I recognize that souring and disaffection and plies to escape among the very closest to me in the over 90 year old range - I held much more Marv & Doris feelings to heart.

Tough. A survivor. How she survived and in her era when it was not all that easy- also quite stubbornly independent. Even when that independence harbored immense deficits, selfish and self-serving judgments- it always occurred as planned. It did. No one owned Hagar. She didn't even know herself how much she was always and continually cutting those binds that tie.

It's also a fairly perfect window into the context/ worldview of that era and economics too. And how women served a road to their own powers that had any results. Or found, like Hagar, some road blocks signs of barricade which always screamed "I'm here, I'm here".

There are quotes in this book which have to do with description and sensibility that are 6 star. Most of them are brutally, brutally hurtful, sharp as knives to others. (The one about the yeast smelling in-law comes to mind.) And others that are physical, natural world embedding like few I have ever come across. More toward the poetic levels too than most fiction writers of modern verbosity ever approach, those word choices and predicate pattern!

One of them in that last category here for just a taste:

"It was spring that day, a different spring from this one. The poplar bluffs had budded with sticky leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening like shavings of sun on the brown river where the tadpoles danced and the bloodsuckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys' feet. And I rode in the block-topped buggy beside the man who was now my mate."

Hagar stayed strong (as did many women in this era) by cutting off all of her own mental and emotive sensibilities at the knees. It gave her a feeling of control. And it did- control! And letting her intelligence only go "so far" to really learning factual anything for depth. Hagar was mean. Her soul and cognition quite like the "Stone Angel" she insisted be righted to its rigid vertical after a abusive topple. All of the disconnects of her own childhood repeated but the stone edifice raised high and visible.

It does not at all surprise me that Margaret Laurence committed suicide, choosing her own method of death, when she herself was gravely ill.
Profile Image for Jubi.
52 reviews14 followers
August 17, 2017
"Pride was my wilderness and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all I touched." ♡
Profile Image for Temuka Zoidze.
179 reviews48 followers
August 1, 2019
ყველა ვიცნობთ იმ ქალებს, დიდად რომ არავის ეხატება გულზე: გოგოობისას თავისი სისპეტაკით რომ გვიწვრილებენ გულს, ქალობისას ბრძნული რჩევებით გვაბეზრებენ თავს და მოხუცებულობაში მუდმივი ბუზღუნით გვივსებენ მოთმინების ფიალას. ხომ ძალიან სწორხაზოვანია ასეთი ქალების ხატი ჩვენს წარმოდგენებში, ვერავითარ ემპათიას რომ ვერ იგრძნობ მის მიმართ ყოველდღიურ ცხოვრებაში, მაგრამ აი, ამ რომანში სულ პირიქით ხდება: ასეთი ერთი შეხედვით ყოვლად აუტანელი ქალის ცხოვრება ისეთ დეტალებამდეა აღწერილი, რომ შეუძლებელია მისმა ტრაგედიამ არ აგაღელვოს და მეტიც, შემდეგში ავტობუსში ერთი ეგეთი ჰეიგარი თუ ამოვა, მუდმივად ახალგაზრდობის უწესობაზე, გაძვირებულ ფასებსა თუ სხვა ნებისმიერ საკითხზე გაუჩერებლივ რომ წუწუნებს, ზიზღით კი არ დავმანჭავ სახეს, პირიქით, მისთვის წამით მაინც მომინდება დანაოჭებულ ხელზე მოფერება.

მარგარეტ ეტვუდისა და ელის მანროს მერე მარგარეტ ლორენსი მესამე კანადელი მწერალი ქალია, რომელიც წავიკითხე და სამივე ასეთი შეშლილი ოსტატები როგორ არიან, ვერაფრით ვიგებ.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,778 reviews210 followers
April 27, 2022
The Story Of Hagar Shipley

The character of Hagar ("stranger") from the Book of Genesis has retained a fascination for many readers over the millenia. In the Biblical story, Hagar is the servant of Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Hagar becomes pregnant with Abraham's child, Ishmael, after Sarah herself is unable to conceive. Twice, before the birth of Ishmael and thereafter, Abraham sends Hagar, at Sarah's insistence into the desert to wander and die. Genesis 17 and 21. On both occasions, God rescues Hagar and promises that Ishmael will be the father of a great nation of warriors. Throughout the Biblical account, there is an enmity between Ishmael and his descendants and Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, and his descendants.

African Americans frequently describe themselves as Hagar's children, symbolizing rejection. For example, a famous early blues by W.C. Handy is titled "All Aunt Hagar's Children". An extraordinary story by Edward P. Jones "All Aunt Hagar's Children" takes Handy's title and adds new dimensions to the Biblical tale, stressing themes of common humanity.

The renowned Canadian author Margaret Laurence's (1926 -- 1987) novel "The Stone Angel" (1964) adds its own layers to the story of Hagar. The story is set in Manawaka, a small fictitious prairie town in Manitoba, Canada and spans roughly the late 19th to mid-20th Century. The main character and narrator is a woman named Hagar Shipley, (born Hagar Currie.). She tells her story when she is a woman, terminally ill, in her 90s. Hagar tells the story of her old age with many flashbacks to and dreams of her long life.

Hagar feels herself an outcast, a loner, and independent, as her Biblical namesake. She is not an entirely likable person but rather is tough, raw, judgmental, and cantankerous. She has been living for 17 years with her 65 year old son, Marvin and his wife Doris in a small home. At the age of about 80, Hagar took up cigarette smoking. She is demanding and makes life difficult for her son and his wife who themselves are frail and getting on in years. Marvin and Doris try to persuade Hagar to move to a nursing home, but Hagar refuses and runs away.

Hagar is not an unreliable narrator, but she has blinkers in how she sees herself. Laurence presents her convincingly while also inviting the reader to come to his or her own understanding of Hagar. The story is taut, sharp, and sometimes told with Hagar's withering judgments on herself and others. The book is secular in outlook although replete with Biblical allusions. The young minister of Marvin and Doris, Mr. Troy, visits Hagar and tries to comfort her at critical moments late in her life.

Hagar was the child of a self-made man, Currie, who owned a successful general store in early Manawaka. She has two brothers and a mother who died when Hagar was young. The novel describes the deaths of these three men and Hagar's reactions and memories. Hagar's father sent her to the eastern part of Canada to a finishing school even though Hagar thought the money would be better spent by sending her brother to college. When she returns, her father tries to make Hagar a suitable match, but she is uninterested. Instead, she marries Bram Shipley, 14 years her senior. Bram is shunned in Manawaka. Her father refuses to see her after the marriage and cuts her out of his will. She truly becomes an outcast, as was the Biblical Hagar.

Bram's first wife died of natural causes. He lives on a run-down farm but has no interest in working the land. He is taciturn, crude, and vulgar. Hagar with her manners and education, seems swayed by the opinions of others about Bram, but, to her own surprise, she responds deeply to Bram sexually. Hagar ultimately has two children, John, who dies, and Marvin, with whom she lives. She leaves Bram but returns when he dies.

Hagar strives to be independent. She tends to blame others for her misfortunes, but she realizes that when she married Bram she knew much of what he was about. She valued Bram's crudeness, vulgarity, and sexuality. She remained ambivalent, and her pride, particularly, got in the way. She was unable to stand up for what she wanted, but adopted the view of Bram of the higher, more reputable citizens of Manawaka, particularly her father. When Bram dies, he is buried in a plot with Hagar's father and Shipley-Currie is inscribed on the grave. There is some belated reconciliation here, perhaps similar to that which might occur between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac.

When Mr. Troy, late in the book, sings Hagar a hymn about serving God "with mirth" and rejoicing, she has an epiphany of sorts. She says: (p. 292)

"Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out and shackled all I touched. O my two, my dead. Dead by your own hands or by mine? Nothing can take away these years."

As with most people, Hagar straddles uneasily between her insight into herself and her ingrained habits and responses.

"The Stone Angel" is a thoughtful, well-written book about growing old and about the never ending task of coming to terms with oneself and,as Nietzsche might describe it, becoming who one is. The book reminded me of two other recent works I liked a great deal in which an elderly narrator reflects on the course of his or her earlier life. The first is "Veronica" by Mary Gaitskill, in which a middle-aged but terminally ill woman gains peace with her earlier life of tawdry sex and sexual exploitation. The second novel is "So Long, See You Tomorrow" by William Maxwell. In this acclaimed novel, a narrator in his 70s revisits and tries to understand haunting events from his youth, including the death of his mother and a sensational adulterous affair and murder-suicide involving a young friend. These two books, and Laurence's, offer varying understandings of the relationship between old age and youth.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Ieva.
1,000 reviews76 followers
February 18, 2021
"Akmens eņģeli" man paveicās laimēt izdevniecības rīkotajā Facebook konkursā, bet jau iepriekš to vairākkārt to bija ieteicis goodreads (spriežot pēc ieteikumiem algoritms laikam domā, ka man ir 16 vai 86 gadi). Šoreiz grāmata trāpīja mērķī - vecās un nāvei tuvās Hagaras atmiņas likās dzīvas,patiesas un sulīgas. Grāmata lika atcerēties, ka varbūt tomēr labāk lieku reizi iekost mēlē, kā savu rūgtumu uzgrūst ar to nesaistītam tuviniekam.
Profile Image for Oskars Kaulēns.
412 reviews91 followers
January 24, 2021
vecums nav pārejošs, tā ir nenovēršamība. tāpēc par to ir jāmāk uzrakstīt tā, it kā viss, kas jau ir pagājis, būtu vēl tikai priekšā. tad ir viegāk sadzīvot, piedzīvot, pārdzīvot. te var smelties māku, kā to izdarīt.
Profile Image for Christine Boyer.
306 reviews29 followers
January 20, 2018
Apparently, Margaret Laurence is a long-time, well known author in Canada and this book (written in 1964) is a known literary favorite among Canadians (Robin, correct me if I'm wrong here! Just what I've heard). I can see why!

I've read several stories like this - older woman, reflecting on her life - regrets, highlights, etc. In fact, I almost gave it a 4 because it seemed so quick and easy to read and contained nothing necessarily exciting or new. But then I realized that was the beauty of Laurence's prose. Her ability to make Hagar Shipley so REAL and so interesting and so memorable is the true test of great writing.

My sister made many comparisons between Hagar and our grandmother - I could certainly see that. But I'd almost say it was a whole generational comparison. They were both of the older generation where men and women didn't "complain" and often struggled with expressing themselves and their emotions.

The book was a detailed examination of end-of-life experiences, as well. I love that Hagar knew she was old and dying, but stayed so true to her feisty character until the very end. Hagar's loved ones tried to thrust last-minute religion onto her, as many people think that's what someone who is dying wants. Even if they've never been religious! The scenes with her adult grandchildren were so real - and the ultimate question was posed for all of us - who is really going to remember you? Who really knows you? Sounds depressing, but it wasn't. Strong message and my take-away: make the most of the short time you've got here!
Profile Image for Jersy.
729 reviews58 followers
May 24, 2021
More often than not, books depicting normal people in every day life seem boring to me, but this one wasn't at all.
Seeing Hagar struggle for an autonomous life despite her old age and looking back was captivating because she is such a strong protagonist. It was easy to empaphize with her since Margaret Laurence always wrote in a way that made it easy to relate to her feelings and actions, even in situations were she wasn't the most rational or likeable.
While the book was written in the 60s and parts of it are set even earlier, it feels quite timeless. There is little indication of when events are set or any kind of changes, so it stays are purely personal story and just as relevant today.
I would recommend it to not only fans of literary fiction but also of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. While on a surface level her life isnt as exciting as Evelyn's, she is the same kind of easy to root for but not always most likeable, impressive and fascinating personality and both books emphasize self-actualisation as well as the relationships the protagonist forms.
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2,681 reviews177 followers
December 4, 2017
Part of me wishes I had saved The Stone Angel, a classic of Canadian literature, to read when I travel to Toronto in January. On reflection, however, I would have become so immersed within it that I would be loath to put it down. The narrator is Hagar Shipley, an elderly woman who is looking back on her 'quiet life filled with rage'. Laurence's writing is incredibly clever; despite the first person narrative voice of Hagar herself, we become aware very early on that she is having problems with her memory. Everything here has been so well captured, and I was immediately enraptured by this beautifully written and ultimately moving novel.
83 reviews9 followers
January 31, 2012
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 this year. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone!
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