Suzanna's Reviews > The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
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's review
Jul 24, 2008

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 lacking empathy with her.

It seems the author's basic premise is that the main character, Daisy, lacks strong emotion because she was not raised by her biological mother, who was herself an orphan, and that these things have some how caused both her and her mother to be inherently flawed. (Either that or Daisy has physically inherited this dysfunction from her mother, but I lean toward the former because of some passages in the story.) They lack passion and passionate expression. Daisy never hears she is loved, nor do you find love expressed by her; her mother, Mercy, never said she loved nor otherwise expressed love, although she was loved greatly and with deep passion by Daisy's father.

What I did like most was the author's use of symbolism. Stones and flowers are heavily used, perhaps overly so at times. There is the building of monuments by Daisy's father (of course made of stone), his life as a quarryman, Daisy's gardens, her second husband's love and knowlege of plants, names of characters, and much more. If that sort of thing excites you, you might love this book for that alone.

I would also like to say I'm surprised so many reviewers found this book "funny". I thought it was terribly depressing. There are a few amusing passages, but I couldn't see calling the book as a whole funny.

And lastly, it is strange to me that this is considered a fictional autobiography. Most of the time it is third person narrative; granted, there are points when Daisy is apparently refering to herself in the third person (as Mrs. Flett or some such, which I found a bit disturbing). I suppose it helps contribute to that feeling of her lack of sense of self, the void within her life that she herself doesn't really fill - is not capable of filling. There are other times it does not feel like her voice, just narrative, and there is just a small portion of the book that is in first person. It does not feel at all like a diary, which again may be for the effect of distancing the main character from herself. Someone with this personality disorder might write a memoir in this manner and call it a diary, I suppose. And it does cover Daisy's life from beginning to end.

The novel's well written, and I think the author achieved what she set out to do. Overall, just not my cup of tea.
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Reading Progress

July 24, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 18, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Brigitte (new)

Brigitte thank you for your detailed comments. If I cannot get into a book within 100 pages then I often wonder if it is worth my mine. I will either leave this one off or add to the end of my list.... thanks.

Carolyn Dorstek Thank you for your review. I just finished this book yesterday and am still disturbed by it. Your comments helped me to put things in perspective. I did not consider that Daisy had a disorder until I read your review. I thought it might have something to do with the repressive nature of the time period in which she lived. On second thought though, her best friend, "Fraidy," had no such problem with life so it likely was a disorder this author was trying to get across.

Tracy Your review reminds me why I originally detested Jane Eyre. With a different perspective, JE is now one of my favorite books. The title of this novel is apt. Like a stone, the characters are stoic and unyielding. Hence their boring lives...

message 4: by Robin (new)

Robin I appreciated your comments and I can provide a little insight into your questions about Daisy's apparent "detachedness". The book is based on the life of a child who was diagnosed (in this case, and in real life, misdiagnosed) with radical attachment disorder and the struggles that she and her family go through on account of this. Carol Shields carries the story forward as she imagines that such a child's life would go. As the real life "Daisy" I can say that I am and have always been full of love, emotion and passion. Throughout my childhood, the misdiagnosis and the horrible "treatment" that followed it meant that I did not have many familial attachments but, I was blessed to have a strong relationship was with God and some enduring friendships. I wish that Carol had not just heard our story from my father and that I could have had a voice. The true story should begin with a young child's grief at losing her mother and that whole side of her family. If you are reading this keep in mind that Daisy's perspective, as presented in the novel, is the external interpretation of that grief as an inability to feel or connect with others; when in actuality Daisy feels everything very deeply. This followed by years of abuse and isolation hardly promoted a healthy open relationship with my family. Also the real life Mercy woke Daisy everyday by whispering to her "I hate you! There is going to be a war today!" Sorry if this was a little too much information from a stranger. It's just weird to have a book written about such an awful part of my life, especially since it does not reflect my personal experience of growing up. Cheers, Robin

message 5: by Robin (new)

Robin I am mistaking two of the characters: the real life Mercy was loving and kind; the stepmother was the mean one. Cliché I know.

Carolyn I think that we are all observers of our life to some degree. Remember when she went to the Orkneys and realized she could feel happiness? We sometimes live lives where we feel that things happen to us and we try to make sense of these things. How much did we do to shape our lives and how much is our attempt to be that which we believe we should be? It asks the questions that many of us are afraid to ask.

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