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The Stone Diaries

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  37,259 ratings  ·  1,923 reviews
The Stone Diaries is one ordinary woman's story of her journey through life. Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of au ...more
Paperback, 361 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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Jeanne Mixon I think Daisy is supposed to be a sort of everywoman for women of that generation and even for women today -- that the questions about herself and her…moreI think Daisy is supposed to be a sort of everywoman for women of that generation and even for women today -- that the questions about herself and her relationship to others that she wrestled with were questions that every woman faces from time to time. Like the question of being loved enough or loving others enough or finding fulfillment in work or staying home and caring for children. And the summing up at the end of all the things she didn't do and all the things she achieved -- was it enough? I think these are things women wrestle with all their lives.(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  37,259 ratings  ·  1,923 reviews

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Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer, book-club, own
I love this book. It has been 14 years since I have read it and I still remember clearly what it means to me:

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

That person you marr
Michael Finocchiaro
My next read going backwards through the Pulitzer winners is The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. This book also won Canada's top book award the name year and was a National Book Award finalist as well. All these awards and praise were well-merited as this is a well-written and compelling story about a woman's life from birth to death.

Daisy Goodwill is born at the turn of the century to a mother who passes away while giving birth and a father who is an accomplished stonemason in rural Canada. Th
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A breathtaking and thoroughly original novel. I'm completely in awe of the choices Shields made in the shaping of this narrative. The whole is flawlessly cohesive. The parts are poetry unto themselves.

Essentially, it's a book about loneliness, every kind of loneliness: starved, suffocating, denied, cherished, physical, existential, or simply the result of petty misunderstanding. --And it's not always clear cut. She allows for ambiguity. She allows for the reader's subjective response, whatever t
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The type of book others rigorously want to imitate. That is, the elusive "turn of the century All American novel", with myriad glimpses at gorgeous post millennial metafiction. "The Stone Diaries" no doubt inspired other works of immeasurable brilliance like T. C. Boyle's "World's End" and Coetzee's "Elizabeth Costello"--it is heartbreaking, endearing, and, best of all, quite accessible. (Although the Puig-like tricks, that is, Latin American lit. concessions, are quite distinguishable.) The sym ...more
The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life. Daisy Goodwill Flett comes into this world in a strange and tragic circumstance. The book follows her through her life to the moment of her death. You might say she has an ordinary life in many ways, and perhaps that is part of the point Shields is making, that all lives are the same because, no matter how different they are from their fellows, all lives are lonely, isolated journeys. Only one person feels or knows who you are, and that person ...more
The Stone Diaries tells the story of Daisy Goodwill Flett's troubled life beginning and ending with sadness and death. There is so much to absorb about the character's in this short novel that I feel the need to read it again, and probably will at some point, but for now..........

Mercy, Mercy.......Cuyler Goodwill loved you so.......Why did you not share your secret?

I did like this somber 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner that does actually have a few laughs, and one shocker, but was somewhat annoy

I’m the kind of person who loves looking at people’s family albums. Not the 400 of your grandchildren--sorry. It’s not that they aren’t cute. It’s just there’s something about the past. There’s so much room there. Show me your great aunt Elsie who was married to that guy--no one remembers his name, but there he is in the corner of the picture, looking a bit sheepish and wearing his farming overalls. I wonder what his story is?

Carol Shields has woven together a tale full of these ordinary yet cap
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book, but it was mostly because I didn't like the main character and her lack of personal substance. She never, ever, even once, feels any joy, passion, or grief. There is one period in her life where she appears to experience depression, but again, there is a lack of strong emotion, which really is typical of depression. A person who has three children, marries twice, and is widowed twice, usually experiences some sort of deep emotion. This flaw in her personality had me lack ...more
Wow, this novel is the perfect example of what happens when you least expect it.

I knew nothing about this book, I'd never heard of it or its author, and I found the cover unappealing.

And, yet, it's one of the best, most meaningful stories I've ever read.

It won the Pulitzer Prize for 1995, which is the only reason I picked it up. Then, I couldn't put it down.

This is one of those life-altering novels, a big picture story, upsetting and wonderful at the same time.

I can't quite recommend it enou
Betsy Robinson
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a slow, intricate telling of the life and death of Daisy Goodwill Flett. The glorious writing is so sensual, thick with substance, so original, wise, wise, and wise that I often had to stop to contemplate or just digest. Effortlessly Carol Shields shifts from third person to first, jumps subjects' stories, returns to the present, and sometimes even comments on the first-person protagonist, Daisy, and her ability to manipulate the truth. And finally she sticks it to any reader who is hone ...more
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book won a Pulitizer Prize in 1995, and it was an honor well deserved. I'd never even heard of it, I just picked up up at the Goodwill because the description on the back cover intrigued me, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

The story is a fictionalized autobiography of one Daisy Goodwill Flett. Born around the turn of the 20th century and living until the 1980s, Shield's Flett reflects simultaneously on her own tragic life and the life of a North American century. The mix and
Joy D
This book tells the story of the life of a woman of the 20th century. She is born in Canada in 1905 and lives into the 1990s. Daisy Goodwill, born in Canada to a mother who dies in childbirth, grows up with a neighbor and her grown son before returning to live with her father at age eleven. It reads at times like a fictional autobiography, and at other times as if people close to her are contributing. She lives a rather uneventful life, punctuated by a few major decisions and events.

It is a tri
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Finishing this book, I thought "What a gloomy novel, what a futile life ...". Shields wrote a sort of biography of Daisy Goodwill, from her remarkable birth up to her last fading moment of life, in 10 chapters, each with an interval of about 10 years. But it's not a linear story: sometimes we hear Daisy speak, sometimes an unknown narrator, at other times immediate family and friends, whether through letters or otherwise. This very variegated approach creates a dynamic and exposes the contradict ...more
Sue K H
“Have you ever looked at, say, a picture or a great building or read a paragraph in a book and felt the world suddenly expand and, in the same instant, contract and harden into a kernel of perfect purity? Do you know what I mean? Everything suddenly fits, everything's in its place.” 

Why yes Ms. Shields, too many times to count in your beautiful book.   If only I'd have read this on my Kindle,  I could have highlighted the many perfectly written simple truths of the Stone Diaries.  I'm not one to
Bam cooks the books ;-)
#2016-usa-geography-challenge: INDIANA
#2016-aty-reading-challenge--week-15: a book set in the past (100 years ago)

I seem to have an affinity for novels about women's lives set in the past century. Perhaps it is because they give me glimpses about what my grandmother's and mother's lives might have been like. Some of my favorites include So Big and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

The Stone Diaries now takes its place among these favorites. It is written as part autobiography/part biography by an omnisc
Feb 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
I guess I cannot stand Pulitzer Prize winning books. I have yet to read one that I've enjoyed. I actually was disappointed that the author passed away simply because I couldn't tell her how much I disliked this book.

I'm guessing the changes from first person to third person were delibrate and artsy-fartsy, but I found it annoying. I barely got through the first chapter because I was sick and tired of the constant explanations of how the character of Mercy was a large woman. (I get it! She's fat
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canada, fiction
It's ironic that I read this book while I was reading Sex and the City. The two novels are as disparate as different planets. One book is a about an ordinary housewife struggling with life's little trials, the other, a place peppered with big names and obscene money, fur coats and Lear jets.

This book is phenomenal. It's probably the best book I've read in the last year. And it's funny to think about because there is no person, or plot twist, or moment that makes it memorable. Each and every pag
Oct 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
I know this won't win me any friends among Canadian readers, but I don't like Carol Shields writing. Granted I've only read this one through to the end. A few years ago I started another one and didn't like it either so I quit about a quarter of the way in. I suspected at the time I was not a "good" reader and that her books were over my head. I've gained some "reader confidence" since then and learned that it's ok to not like certain styles of writing just on the basis of personal taste. Hence ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
“My mother’s name was Mercy Stone Goodwill.” And so begins what appears at first to be an autobiography of a woman named Daisy but yet as the pages unfold, it becomes something unique, an outsider’s observation of someone’s actions or inner thoughts (though at times even the narrator, be it Daisy or another does not seem to know exactly what is going on). It seems at times to be a pseudo-biography, or perhaps (more apt), to be a philosophical treatise on human nature and a woman’s psyche, or may ...more
Is it possible to capture the complete course of a life, whether looking from the outside or telling it from the inside? What is set in stone and what is fleeting? These are questions Carol Shields addresses in her 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner, which plays with perspective and forms of storytelling as it conveys the extra/ordinary life of Daisy Stone Goodwill Flett. What with the family tree and section of black-and-white photographs, you might expect this to be a family saga; with the chronologic ...more
Beth Bonini
Life is an endless recruiting of witnesses. It seems we need to be observed in our postures of extravagance or shame, we need attention paid to us. Our own memory is altogether too cherishing, which is the kindest thing I can say for it. Other accounts are required; other perspectives, but even so our most important ceremonies - birth, love and death - are secured by whomever and whatever is available. What chance, what caprice!

Birth, 1905; Childhood, 1916; Marriage, 1927; Love, 1936; Pho
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sally by: Lewis Eng
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book was suggested for the Mostly Literary Fiction book group that I lead at the Hayward Public Library, and we read it for our May 2009 discussion. A poignant and extremely creative approach to the imagining of one fairly ordinary (and extraordinary, in its rendering) individual. My reading of this novel coincided with my 85-year-old mother's illness and hospitalization. I read parts of it while waiting with her in the emergency room, and the following day sitting by ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've just finished reading this for the second time, the first time being several years ago. The more I read by Carol Shields, the more impressed I am by her writing skills. I think the structure of this book is excellent, and very, very skilled. ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Oh, how utterly substantial this ordinary life tale runs. Having read this in my middle years, I now reread it within a completely different life period and enjoyed it even more. How rich the language, without having to use foul chorus calls of trite ranting or other slurs. It's absolutely delightful to read words such as "larky" again.

The life far less molded by electronic, media cultural standards. A life begun in great sorrow and also having patches of unsought fulfillment scattered along th
Claire Fuller
I read this when it first came out in paperback in 1994 (in fact it still has the Dillons sticker on the back), but I couldn't remember anything about it, except that I'd loved it. This time I read it as a writer, and although I found some faults with the story (it's the whole life of Daisy Flett) - too many extraordinary things happen, and yet not enough happens - I also really appreciated how well written it is, how Shields keeps us in suspense by using backstory, how she seamlessly flits arou ...more
Kiran Bhat
Sep 27, 2020 rated it liked it
A fairly prosaic and standard novel detailing the life of a woman named Daisy Flett. Admittedly, on a sentence level, it's quite good, but I don't feel that Shields lifts her concept above the simplicity implicit in her tale. It's good for people who like the comforting style of Ann Beattie or Anne Tylor, but not for those who like to see storytelling and language taken further than that. ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-list
"My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill. She was only thirty years old when she took sick, a boiling hot day, standing there in her back kitchen, making a Malvern pudding for her husband's supper. A cookery book lay open on the table: 'Take some slices of stale bread,' the recipe said, 'and one pint of currants; half a pint of raspberries; four ounces of sugar; some sweet cream if available.' Of course she's didvided the recipe in half, there being just the two of them, and what with the scar ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
A true case of better late than never, I am so glad I finally read this book. It's both epic and humble, quiet and bold, a true masterpiece in both content and style.

We meet Daisy the moment she is born in 1905 and follow her life until it ends sometime in the 1990's. The book reads almost like an in-depth memoir, except that other perspectives (or versions of Daisy's story) keep breaking into the narrative. Shields also chooses the third person, even when we are reading Daisy's thoughts, which
Thomas Strömquist
I've very ambivalent feelings about of this book. At places I think it's marvelously written and captivating as well as containing a number of nice and unusual narrative grips, such as telling an entire decade of the main characters life by only random correspondence (and only incoming letters, saved and read by the character herself).

At the same time, this and similar narrative techniques does not allow the reader to get to know the main character (and those around her) very well. A lot of act
Linda Hart
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The ordinary life of an ordinary lady told in an extraordinary way. The characters develop and scenes unfold beautifully with nuances of language shifting from 1st to 3rd person and back again. In one instance the main character is describing her feelings and then you go on and read how her family and friends interpreted the same thing. The publisher calls it "seductive prose" which is fitting description, It won the 1995 Puitzer prize. ...more
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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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