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A Celibate Season

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  338 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Originally published in 1991, this remarkable collaboration came about when Carol Shields and her friend Blanche Howard decided to tell two sides of the same story. Carol wrote the man's version and Blanche the woman's.

A Celibate Season is the story of what happens when Jocelyn and Charles, who have been married for years, are faced with a possible ten-month separation. In
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 28th 1998 by Vintage Canada (first published January 1st 1991)
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Elina Mustikkakummun Anna
Elämänmakuinen ja autenttiselta tuntuva kirjeromaani pitkän avioliiton kuivasta kaudesta teki minuun vaikutuksen. Kirjalla on kaksi kirjoittajaa, mutta niin hyvin heidän tyylinsä sopivat yhteen, että tuntui kuin lukisi yhden kirjailijan tekstiä. Ja tietenkin oli taas kerran ihana lukea Shieldsiä!
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shields ei koskaan petä odotuksia.
Terri Jacobson
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a gem of a novel written in 1991. It is written in epistolary form, and tells the tale of a Canadian couple who are separated for 10 months and use the time writing letters to each other about their marriage and life experiences. It's very well-written and the story is quite engaging, especially on an emotional level. It's interesting to note that this book was written by 2 authors, one taking the male part and one the female. Despite this, the narrative is seamless, and I think it adds ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would never have thought a book written by two authors would work. However, with one writer taking the place of husband, and one of wife, in a series of letters written while they are leading separate lives (he as house-husband, she at the other end of the country in a new job), it works superbly. A very interesting collaboration.
Wonder what the email/facebook generationn would make of it!
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

The writing wasn't bad; the letter format did not bother me; neither did the collaboration between two writers. It just wasn't interesting to me and I found myself getting more and more bored with these people's lives. They didn't speak (or write) like normal people. They sounded just like what they were: imaginary characters.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not as totally absorbing as Larry's Party and The Stone Diaries, but I guess that's not surprising since it's an epistolary novel and a collaboration.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Actual rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

It felt a bit dated and on-the-nose to me, but I enjoyed reading it in the end.
Niccole Cipriani
Jun 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: summer-reading
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Natalie Shawver
When I first picked up this book, I thought the concept was intriguing: a husband and wife decide to write letters to each other while the wife is on location for a job assignment. It felt romantic and loyal, kind and comforting. But as the title states, the couple decide to add a season of celibacy to their long-distance challenge as well. I was encouraged by their return to the basics of their relationship, sharing their hopes and dreams along the way. As the book continued, however, the lack ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a light little read. Two authors tackle epistolary style - each writing one of the two character's letters. This is the tale of a husband and wife dealing with a year's separation while the wife takes on a big job on the other side of the country.

It felt like quite an accurate picture of the recent past. I was pleased to see we've come a bit further since then in gender roles. For example, the characters are hurting financially because the husband has lost his job and the wife has not yet b
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jerroll Shires
I enjoyed the fictional letters written by two Canadian authors, describing the parallel lives of marriage partners during a 10 month work-induced separation. In this case, the wife Jocelyn (Jock) moves to Ottawa while Charles (Chas) an under-employed architect, stays home in North Vancouver to run the household. Women's rights, turf issues, abstinence, and a 20 year marriage are all addressed in this slim work of fiction. While Jock did not endear herself to me as Chas did, I found myself turni ...more
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-so-much
I thought this would be an interesting story. At first, I believed that the couple was separated because they were getting a divorce, but the realized it was for work purposes. I could see what was going to happen all the way along, until the end when I thought oh, good it's not going to happen, and then it did anyway! Ugh!!!

This wasn't a bad story, it had a lot of real emotional value in it, but I had a hard time enjoying the outcome of the story and that ruined the whole thing for me! Also, i
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adult
I love the work of Carol Shields. Here she pairs with fellow Canadian author Blanche Howard to create an epistolary novel about a long-married couple who spend ten months apart, the woman to pursue a government job documenting the feminization of poverty and the man to stay home and care for their family and home. Over the course of ten long, life-changing months, their letters chronicle how they make do without each other, what they discover about themselves, and the separate adventures each pu ...more
Well, it's taken me almost two years before I read this and once again, I ask myself why did I wait so long? I am often baffled by my own book selection process which is totally based on whims of the moment versus actual story value. Any way, this was much better than I thought it would be although in this decade it would have been more likely they would have sent emails instead of snail mail. I thought the tone was perfect and a great demonstration of how communication in a relationship can cha ...more
J. E.  Hewitt
I think I read this before but it was so long ago I wanted to look at it again. Authors Carol Shields and Blanche Howard, friends and letter writers in "real" life, wrote this together, one in the role of the husband and one the wife who write letters to one another when the wife has to live away for several months because of work. It's funny and quirky and interesting, and this time around it really pointed out the way times have changed.
May 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is the story of what happens to a couple in a long term marriage during the ten months they are separated for employment reasons. Normally, I am partial to books by Carol Shields. She wrote this epistolary novel, however, with a friend. Unfortunately, unlike her other works, this one lacked any dramatic tension. The story was for the most part bland and predictable. Disappointing given her talent.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up in the library because I like Carol Shields and hadn't seen this one before. Actually written by two authors in collaboration it is a very interesting series of letters between wife in Ottawa (high powered lawyer on a commission) and husband in Vancouver holding down the family household. How their relationship alters and develops over the period of separation. Also a very interesting picture of Canadian life.
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read, in letter form about a canadian couple who because of her job and his lack of one spends ten months apart. Very good twists and turns, crazy stuff happens that is all too believeable. Very entertaining, I enjoy the letter form of writting if done right and they have.
This book was written by not one but two friends, one writting the husbands letters and one writting the wife's........they did a great job of it!
I actually hated this book. Which is stange because I am such a huge Carol Shields fan. I didn't like the characters or the premise and even found reading letter after letter taxing even though I have read other books with a similiar format which I had no problem with. Carol Shields is wonderful but this book is not.
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever idea for two well-known authors to collaborate on an epistolary work showing how a husband and wife survived a separation of many months because the wife took an engaging job many provinces away in Canada. Especially enjoyable because the two writers allowed the couple to have a sense of humor and great writing styles.
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tale of our times. Jobs are short in supply. The wife is offered a contract for a year for great pay....but across the country.
The , now husband and homemaker, strives to make things work out. The couple
communicate through letters.
There are many bumps along the way....most of them realistic and funny... at least to the reader.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
B+ What a lovely book -- a wife and husband are separated due to the wife having a fantastic job opportunity for the government, and they communicate almost entirely by letters. It's interesting how you see their perspectives of their marriage, the changes of the individuals, the changes of the relationship, and the slow deteroiration. Really good.
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An easy and quick read. Written by two authors, each taking a separate character, one the wife and the other the husband. It's about a couple that are separated by work for about 8 months (Vancouver and Ottawa) and they communicate through letter writing (before email). Good, not great.
For this book, the two authors wrote letters back and forth to each other. This book takes us into the lives of a married couple who spend 10 months apart, and whose lives are reveiled through their letters to one another. Very humourous in some spots, but overall I was disappointed with the stereotyping of the characters, and the ending was a letdown.
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read, I love the letter format and the fact that such great authors had got together to do this. There was much in this to give food for thought, discussing the different nature of relationships and the changes the years bring.
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a great depiction of what distance can do to a relationship. The letters are extremely well written and make you feel that you know the characters quite well, as though we could tell what each would be feeling and thinking...
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
while a very quick and easy read, i thought the authors worked well in creating voices for their characters and implemented lines of text that well developed the themes without forcing anything obvious. this is my second bookclub selection and think it will lend itself to good discussion.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carol Shields I have admired for years, but this is the first Blanche Howard I've read. And it makes me want to read more by her. Wrenching lay emotional, and yet restrained, this is an amazing exploration of a relationship.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Quite boring. Neither the characters nor their relationship were interesting, and the story proceeded unevenly - at times too slow, at times far too fast (the party).
Apparently the plot was not planned before starting writing. And in fact, the book ended up being neither here not there.
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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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