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Books by Carol Shields


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#1 vagansmom

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 02:45 PM

Has anyone read anything by her? I just started reading Unless and so far, 42 pages into it, I really like it. It's written in the first person by a female author whose 19-year-old daughter has dropped out of college to become a panhandler. I love Shields's prose and am hoping the book will continue to delight me.

I see that another book of hers, The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize.

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 05:39 PM

The Canadian writer Carol Shields is in my triumvirate of favorite modern novelists, the others being John Updike and Anne Tyler. I've read several of her novels, including "The Stone Diaries," "Larry's Party," "The Republic of Love," "Swann," and a "Celibate Season." I liked them all, especially "Swann," "The Stone Diaries," and "The Republic of Love." There are several others I haven't gotten around to reading, but unfortunately there won't be any more. She died last July at the age of 68.

#3 Kate B

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 01:19 AM

Oh, yes, I love Carol Shields' books too, especially Unless. It was so sympathetically written, what I mean is, I always thought Reta's feelings were realistic and I felt for her at every stage of the story. The Stone Diaries was good, but not as absorbing.

I got some of her other books for Christmas, Happenstance and The Republic of Love, and I am waiting until I have fewer other things on my mind so I can really settle down and enjoy them.

Her last novel was unfinished and they published extracts from it here:

http://books.guardia...1112194,00.html

Here is some other information about her work (including a biography oif Jane Austen):

http://books.guardia...1001501,00.html

http://books.guardia...,438823,00.html

#4 vagansmom

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 08:29 PM

I think I may have found my newest favorite author :) I finished Unless tonight and will begin The Stone Diaries tomorrow or Wednesday (whichever day affords me a "snow day" from school).

Kate B., I too found Reta's emotions and behavior very realistic. Anyone who's ever experienced a deep and ongoing heartbreak (how many of us haven't?) will easily identify with her feelings.

And I LOVED Reta's letters,didn't you?

Thanks for the links too. I'll check them out while the snow piles up on the doorstep.

Both you and FarrellFan have me wanting to read The Republic of Love.

I don't know how I missed this author!

#5 obbligato

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 08:45 PM

I also very much enjoyed the books I have read by Carol Shields: Stone Diaries, and, especially, Larry's Party. I was in the middle of Unless when I heard that she died. That was months ago, and I'm still in the middle of it, but only because I've been distracted by other things for the time being. I plan to get back to that book, which I did find to be very absorbing, despite the fact that I haven't finished it. The only book I started of hers that (for me anyway) was forgettable was one that she co-wrote with another author. The title escapes me right now. Despite that, I think Shields had a gift for making the ordinariness of life seem somehow extraordinary.

Anyway, I don't visit here too often, and was glad to see a thread devoted to her. Just wanted to pop in and say that I enjoyed reading the links posted above.

#6 Kate B

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 01:43 AM

I'm loving reading The Republic of Love. It is beautiful. As you say Shields had a talent for writing in order to make the ordinary extraordinary. Another way of putting this is there is always something in every chapter that is instantly identifyable - an emotion, an event, a relationship, even the details of a house or table manners. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it.

#7 vagansmom

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 09:21 AM

Although I finished Unless about two weeks ago, its aura has lingered and even deepened in the days since.

I bought that book because the cover mentioned something about the 19 year old daughter in the story abruptly dropping out of college to panhandle on the streets. A few weeks ago, I'd spent some time comforting a friend whose own 19 year old daughter had just abruptly flunked out of college, moved into an apt. with a very new, much older boyfriend, and gotten an entry level job.

My friend recognized that she was grieving over her lost dreams for her daughter. As a child growing up, this daughter was set on an academic path - bright, engaging, energetic student. Mom's dream for her included college, perhaps grad school, maybe a slow romance that turned into marriage. Even though she'd raised her to have an independent spirit, it still was a shock to discover that mother and daughter didn't have the same vision in mind. My friend said that in some ways she was glad to see her daughter forging her own path, making her own decisions, having her own plans for her future. She had raised her to follow her own heart and she was proud of her for doing so. Her daughter did have plans for herself and was following them. But it still hurt, and my friend was just recognizing that, as a mom, she needed to allow herself to grieve.

I know something about grieving over lost dreams for my children. I think that probably all parents of adult children know something about this. I wonder, though, how many of us recognize it on a conscious level and allow ourselves to respect this grief and allow it unmeasured time. Until I listened to my friend and watched her process her feelings, I hadn't realized my own. I knew that I had fears for my own kids, both just launching out into the world on their own, but I hadn't realized that, clutched up in those fears, was also a silent sadness. We tend to view it solely in terms of fear, not sadness.

Some of my sadness is for the world they will have to live in, some of it is for the inevitable decisions they may be forced to make because of this world. And some of it is for the dreams I unconsciously carried with me for them day in and day out all the years of their upbringing. Like my friend, my dreams for them included a straight path towards a safe future - solid, clear goals in mind, their own chosen vocation or passion, and a direct route to fulfilling those goals. A silly dream, I know, especially from this mother who's always opted for the winding, crooked path that's included many about-faces. I trumpeted this other way, I think, by example, and yet, probably because as parents we want safety first for our kids, I am filled with fear and some grief over their choices.

My 18 year old daughter has forged her own independent path in recent months. I'm proud of her. I'm proud of her determination, of her singlemindedness, of her decision to pursue a dream that's completely unlike that of any of her former schoolmates. I admire her inner strength to make her decisions alone. But I still grieve, even though she's doing everything I raised her to do. She's chosen the bumpier road.

And that's what I thought this book would be about: that bumpy road and how a mother adapts to her daughter's choices. Or maybe it was going to be about mental illness and how a mother must adapt to that awful reality. In either case, it would be about a mother's loss.

And it is. Reta Winters' loss was profound - her daughter turning her back on her family and living in a homeless shelter while panhandling on the streets wearing a sign saying "Goodness". I'm still wondering if this book is about loss, or about goodness, or about power. I think power. And it makes me grieve some more.

#8 fendrock

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 05:37 AM

Vagansmom, I think you are so right about parents grieving for the life their child didn't have.

You are also right about how difficult it is for parents to accept the grief that they feel. It seems our society is quick to judge parents who are seen as overinvolved with their children (the "ballet mom," etc.). These strong emotions can be seen as "inappropriate," because, after all, our children have to live their own lives, right?

Even if I support and accept my children's choices, I think I still have to deal with some sort of phantom "what my child's life should have been like."


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