Shields, Carol (Vol. 113)
Carol Shields 1935–
American-born Canadian novelist, short story writer, poet, dramatist, and critic.
The following entry presents an overview of Shields's career through 1997. For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volume 91.
A Canadian-American born and raised in Chicago, Shields achieved a historic literary feat when her novel The Stone Diaries (1993) earned Canada's Governor General's Award and the American Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, and was short-listed for Britain's Booker Award.
Shields was born June 2, 1935, to Robert and Inez Warner in Oak Park, Illinois, a prosperous suburb of Chicago. She has described her years growing up as safe and happy, but also insular. Shields earned a bachelor's degree from Hanover College in Indiana; while studying for a year in England, she met Donald Shields, a Canadian engineering graduate student. The two married in 1957 and Shields moved to Canada. For the next few years, Shields focused on family, giving birth to five children and following her husband across Canada as his career progressed. Shields took a magazine writing course at the University of Toronto and sold stories to the Canadian Broadcasting Co. and British Broadcasting Co. In her late twenties, she revived an earlier interest in poetry writing. When the family moved to Ottawa, Shields enrolled in the graduate department in English at the University of Ottawa, writing a masters thesis on Susanna Moodie. It was at this time that Shields began writing fiction; in 1976 she published Small Ceremonies. The book received critical acclaim in Canada and Shields was encouraged to continue writing. While she attracted a modest Canadian following with her subsequent works, she did not gain attention outside of Canada until publishing Swann (1987), which was short-listed for the prestigious Governor General's Award. Following the success of Swann, many of Shields' earlier works were released in the United States and Britain. Shields has resided in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a number of years, teaching English and creative writing at the University of Manitoba, where she is now chancellor.
Shields's fiction has focused on the common, almost banal, events of middle-class, middle-age characters. However, far from being uneventful, these characters' lives are marked by identity crises, self doubts, and anxieties. Her first published novel, Small Ceremonies, set in early 1970s Canada, focuses on Judith and Martin Gill, an academic couple, and their children. Through Judith's efforts to write a biography and the family's interaction with one another and others, Shields poses questions about public and private knowledge and how people construct identity. Happenstance (1980) and A Fairly Conventional Woman (1982) continue Shields's exploration of how people come to know themselves and others. Later published in a single volume, the two works follow a married couple during one weekend; Happenstance is written from the husband's perspective and A Fairly Conventional Woman from the wife's. Together the works illustrate the isolation that occurs within the marriage and the degree to which the characters misunderstand one another and themselves. In Various Miracles (1985) and to a greater extent in Swann: A Mystery, Shields began to experiment with form while remaining constant in theme. Swann consists of five chapters, with each of the first four written from the perspective of one of the characters and the final chapter written as a screenplay which reveals crucial information about the cast. The novel focuses on the illusive identity of Mary Swann, a poor farmer's wife from rural Ontario, whose single volume of poetry was published after she was killed by her husband. To each character Swann and her poetry represent something different, and each character struggles to create an identity for her, even as the artifacts of her life begin to mysteriously disappear. The Stone Diaries is written in the form of a journal recording the life of Daisy Goodwill Fletts. In it Fletts discusses the events of her life as she attempts to define its meaning. Larry's Party (1997) focuses on similar concerns of self-identity, but is written from the perspective of an average middle-aged man. In addition to her novels, Shields has written two critically acclaimed short story collections and three poetry collections.
Critics are consistent in their praise of Shields's work. From the beginning of her career, critics have commended Shields's descriptive powers and ability to capture the nature of everyday life, comparing her with A. S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro. In reviewing her first three books, Julie Beddoes wrote, "Shields can create vivid and often picturesque characters with such sympathy that one is convinced their eccentricities are the stuff of everyday life." Elizabeth Benedict remarked, "Shields is wickedly accurate about the intricacies of marriage, parenthood and the battle of the sexes, and an astute observer and satirist of social trends." However, most critics agree that Shields began a transformation of her literary career with Various Miracles and has built upon this with each subsequent work. In her review of Swann, Diane Turbide concluded that the novel's plot was better developed and less banal than her earlier works. Other reviewers have noted that nothing truly frightening threatens Shields's characters, although she has captured a more urgent tone in her later books. In addition, some critics have questioned the accuracy of classifying her as a feminist.
Others (poetry) 1972
Intersect (poetry) 1974
Small Ceremonies (novel) 1976
Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (criticism) 1976
The Box Garden (novel) 1977
Happenstance (novel) 1980
A Fairly Conventional Woman (novel) 1982
Various Miracles (short stories) 1985
Swann: A Mystery (novel) 1987
The Orange Fish (short stories) 1989
A Celibate Season [with Blanche Howard] (novel) 1991
The Stone Diaries (novel) 1993
Thirteen Hands (play) 1993
Coming to Canada (poetry) 1995
Larry's Party (novel) 1997
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SOURCE: "Quiet Manifesto: Carol Shields's Small Ceremonies," in International Fiction Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, July, 1976, pp. 147-50.
[In the review below, MacDonald praises Small Ceremonies and places Shields within the Canadian literary tradition.]
At a time when some Canadian writers are getting on cultural bandwagons, or are partially blinded by the myths which they have created for themselves, it is refreshing to come across a novel like Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields. Her novel, as the title suggests, concerns itself with the small acts of a quiet family in a relatively peaceful Canadian academic community. Very little happens in the novel, yet subtly and with considerable skill Mrs. Shields unfolds the character of the narrator, Judith Gill, her English professor husband, Martin, and their two children, Meredith and Richard.
The problems for the family arise after their return from a sabbatical year in England. The Canadian experience of the characters is portrayed against a wider, multi-cultural background which highlights both the more general humanity and the peculiarly Canadian quality of their responses. The "small ceremonies," like the English high tea on Sunday evenings, which define their English experience help them to identify the subtle differences and nuances of their Canadianness.
The setting is Canada in the early 1970's and...
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SOURCE: "Small Ceremonies and the Art of the Novel," in Journal of Canadian Fiction, Vol. 28, No. 29, 1980, pp. 172-78.
[In the essay below, Page discusses Shields's observations about fiction, biography, and sources in Small Ceremonies.]
Carol Shields' first novel, Small Ceremonies (1976), is short, light and readable, a first-person study of nine months in the life of a woman of forty, scrutinizing herself and her circle. Thus reviewer John Parr appropriately describes it as "a familiar enough life story of quiet desperation except that Judith Gill, who tells her own tale of woe, enlivens it with many satiric flourishes." Another reviewer, Robert A. Lecker, says the book is "a reasonably entertaining story about the significant trivialities of everyday suburban existence," in which "nothing particularly exciting happens," and DuBarry Campau terms it "a pleasant, unpretentious book" with "wit, delicacy, and deft, realistic perceptions."
However, one should not think that the subject is merely suburbia and the everyday—though illnesses, parties, and so on do occupy considerable space. Judith, the central character, is a writer of biographies who has made one unsuccessful attempt at a novel, and Martin, her husband, is a Milton expert seeking more creative ways of expressing his scholarly insights. The other characters include Furlong Eberhardt, an admired Canadian author...
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SOURCE: "Ordinary People," in Books in Canada, Vol. 11, No. 9, November, 1982, pp. 18-19.
[In the following review, Horvath argues that A Fairly Conventional Woman fails to live up to the high standards Shields established in her earlier novels.]
Carol Shields began her writing career as a poet, and her first three novels reflect a poetic view, a lyrical perspective. Two of them, Small Ceremonies and Happenstance, were especially notable for their imagery and for Shields's skillful handling of the musings of the main characters. In them Shields portrayed suburban life in great detail, but her descriptions, even of the prosaic, were almost always fresh and insightful. And because of their curiosity and imagination, her characters were appealing. Most important, she wrote with a delicate touch, so lightly that the reader discovered much more about the characters than the narrators apparently intended to reveal. Unfortunately A Fairly Conventional Woman is a weak successor to her previous accomplishments.
Readers of Shields's novels have already met the heroine, Brenda Bowman, wife of the historian Jack Bowman in Happenstance. We saw her only briefly before, because she was at a national crafts convention in Philadelphia. In her present novel Shields seems to have lost command of her character. In Happenstance, as seen through her husband's eyes,...
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SOURCE: "A Little Like Flying: An Interview with Carol Shields," in West Coast Review, Vol. 23, No. 3, Winter, 1988, pp. 38-56.
[In the following interview, Shields discusses genre, form, and her writing process as they relate to several of her works.]
[Roo:] You display a good deal of formal versatility in your writing. You have published poems, short stories, novels (and a film script within one of them), and are working on a play. What dictates your choice of form?
[Shields:] This question of form! I am, to tell you the truth, more indifferent to the boundaries between literary forms than your question indicates. Recently I went to Ottawa to sit on a Canada Council Jury and discovered, when we sifted through applications, that those writers who want to apply in a new genre (switching from poetry to fiction, play writing to poetry and so on) must apply in a completely separate, vaguely second-rate competition called 'Explorations'. I was surprised, since writing of all kinds interests me—the formulations of language. Who, after all, can distinguish between a novel and a series of connected stories? It is stunning, and distressing, to think of all the critical energy that has been wasted on genre classification. Is Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush a novel or a series of essays or autobiography or what? Does Daphne Marlatt write poetry or fiction? Where are we to...
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SOURCE: "Telling It Slant," in Books in Canada, Vol. 18, No. 4, May, 1988, pp. 9-14.
[In the following essay, Wachtel provides an overview of Shields's life and career.]
Four years ago, when Carol Shields turned 50, her writing turned a corner. The titles tell all. Before: Small Ceremonies, The Box Garden, Happenstance, and A Fairly Conventional Woman. After: Various Miracles, Swann: A Mystery, and now, The Orange Fish. "You get older and braver," she says, "braver about what you can say and what can be understood."
Her first four novels presented reliable pictures of middle-class, domestic life. Shields is expert at evoking the feelings and concerns of ordinary people—their ambivalence about their families, their jobs, and their mates. Her characters think. They try to be nice. And they often get stuck in boring situations—with spouses, parents, or colleagues. It's not the mad trapped housewife that Shields finds in suburbia, but relatively happy families coping with change, recognizing some uneasiness around the edges, but committed to the safety of the familiar. It's that world of dirty dishes, tired casseroles, and the acute desperation of school projects. The virtues, joys, and griefs of everyday life are cherished. Shields doesn't satirize; she reassures, but not in a smug or cloying way. Her style is often ironic, affectionately...
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SOURCE: "Shields' Swann," in Room of One's Own, Vol. 13, Nos. 1 & 2, July, 1989, pp. 136-46.
[In the essay below, Smyth explores the meaning of identity for the protagonist in Swann.]
We believe we are at home in the immediate circle of beings. Beings are familiar, reliable, ordinary. Nevertheless, the lighting is pervaded by a constant concealment in the double form of refusal and dissembling. At bottom, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extra-ordinary.
(Martin Heidegger, Origins of the Work of Art)
Who is Swann? This question haunts the text, teasing readers and characters into laughter, frustration, recognition. Bittersweet mysteries of life. Shields insists on them, on us as mysterious creatures, riddled with doubt and anxiety, shot through with a capacity for concealment, for relief in the warmth of the body next to us in the bed, in the small pleasures and ceremonies of everyday life, in the song the poet sings.
Mary Swann, farmer's wife, poet. Lived in obscurity outside the small town of Nadeau, Ontario. Died violently at the hands of her husband who then shot himself. No note, no explanation. Only Mary's poems left behind and a few artifacts from the hard-scrabble farm where she lived most of her adult life. One child, a daughter, who lives in California, a world away, selves...
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SOURCE: "A Slight Parodic Edge: Swann: A Mystery," in Multiple Voices: Recent Canadian Fiction, edited by Jeanne Delbaere, Dangaroo Press, 1990, pp. 104-15.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1989, Thomas discusses Swann's illusive and complex nature.]
No writer has shown us more clearly than has Carol Shields in Swann the paradoxical and illusory nature of things we covet, collect, think we possess and, in the end, lose. In Swann exactly 125 of the poems of the murdered Mary Swann were printed in a collection called Swann's Songs by the eccentric, crotchety journalist, publisher, humanist and editor, Frederic Cruzzi. Of the 250 copies originally printed, only 20 are known to have survived at the outset of the story; we learn later of the narrow escape all of the poems had in a crazy domestic disaster in the Cruzzis' home even before publication; in the end, all the eager owners of the poems have lost their copies, and even the love poems, discovered by Willard Lang under the linoleum in the deserted Swann kitchen, are gone—stuffed into a pillow-case and dropped out of a hotel window by Brownie, the book-dealer who has a passion for cornering markets: comic books, Mary Swann's poems, they're all the same to him. He hasn't read a book in years, but as artifacts their sheer physical presence, together with his urge to possess, lures him into the...
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SOURCE: "Carrion Conspiracy," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 20, 1989, p. 2.
[In the following review, Hegi discusses the issue of stolen identity in Swann.]
What happens when literary criticism takes a writer's work so far from her intent that, finally, it loses its essence? Carol Shields asks disturbing questions about the nature of theft in her novel, Swann. Who is the real thief—the person who steals the last rare copies of a murdered poet's book, the scholars who use her poems to seek recognition for themselves, or her husband who brutally murders her?
Fifteen years after Canadian poet, Mary Swann, is killed without an apparent motive, a symposium is held in Toronto, drawing Swann experts from all over the United States and Canada. Shields focuses on four of the participants—a critic, a biographer, a publisher, and a town clerk.
The feminist critic, Sarah Maloney, considers herself Swann's discoverer. Exulting in the "womanly brilliance" she bestows on her postgraduate students, she indulges in a running, internal commentary on her thoughts, feelings, and actions. This tireless reflection is amusing at first but soon becomes repetitive and transforms a potentially complex character into a caricature.
Her correspondence with Swann's biographer, Morton Jimroy, evolves from their mutual interest in the work of the murdered poet....
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SOURCE: "A World Made of Words," in Women's Review of Books, Vol. VII, No. 3, December, 1989, p. 16.
[In the following review, Fellman discusses Shields's interest in form and personality in Swann and her investigations into order and chaos in the stories in Various Miracles.]
Now that the US and Canada have signed a free trade treaty, perhaps it will be possible for more than one or two Canadian women writers to slip past the US cultural border. High on my list of imports is Carol Shields, whose fifth novel, Swann, and collection of short stories, Various Miracles, have just been published in the US. Shields, who was nominated for a Governor General's Award for Swann, and is the subject of a recent special issue of the Canadian feminist literary quarterly, Room of One's Own, has enriched Canadian fiction writing and poetry, and deserves to be better known in the US. Ironically, although she lives in Winnipeg, she was born and raised in the Chicago area, and takes her settings and her characters from both countries.
The fascination of other people's lives and the essential unknowability of even those closest to us are threads that run through all of Shields' work. She is preoccupied with individuals who work with words and those who perceive the world largely through books. The middle-class protagonists in her first three novels, Small Ceremonies,...
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SOURCE: "From 'Dying for Love' to 'Mrs. Turner': Narrative Control in Stories by Carol Shields," in Contemporary Manitoba Writers: New Critical Studies, edited by Kenneth James Hughes, Turnstone Press, 1990, pp. 163-76.
[In the essay below, Weil considers structure and narration in Shields's short stories.]
My first thought this morning is for Beth, how on earth she'll cope now that Ted's left her for the dancer Charlotte Brown. I ask myself, what resources does a woman like Beth have, emotional resources? ("Dying," Made)
These two sentences begin Carol Shields' "Dying for Love," a story that has been reprinted twice within a year of its original publication (1989). After the first paragraph, the story-teller (perhaps better conceived as what we used to call "the implied author") unobtrusively vanishes—or at least does not explicitly refer to herself until the final paragraphs of the first segment:
Despite my uneasiness about Beth's ability to cope emotionally, and despite her insomnia, she somehow manages to get up most mornings….
Beth … wonders what would happen if she took all twelve pills plus the gin. She doesn't know. I don't know either.
This section is the first of three segments in the story. Each is...
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SOURCE: "Designs for Living," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4587, January 3, 1991, p. 21.
[In the following review of the expanded edition of Happenstance, Armstrong discusses the significance of daily events in the lives of the two characters.]
The two novellas between the covers of Happenstance are arranged so that which story you read first is a matter of chance. Whichever end of the book you start with will actually be a beginning. The stories are not arranged as a sequence, but read from front to back and from back to front of the book, so that their endings converge in the middle, printed upside down to one another. Likewise, the histories of Jack Bowman and his wife, Brenda, nouveau middle-class Americans from middle America, both in their forties, converge at O'Hare Airport, Chicago, after they have been away from one another for a week.
Domestic rules, like the form of the stories, have been inverted; Brenda has been at a craft conference in Philadelphia, winning recognition ("Second Coming receives Honourable Mention", a local newspaper announces of her apocalyptically named quilt) and surviving, among other experiences, a naked couple in flagrante delicto, who have usurped her hotel room. Her husband, a historian with an ebbing belief in his work, is involved in a more sombre black comedy of bewildered domesticity. He is left with two...
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SOURCE: "Impressions," in Canadian Literature, No. 130, Autumn, 1991, pp. 149-50.
[In the following review of The Orange Fish, Spettigue compares Shields' writing with the work of Alice Munro.]
Twelve stories in the post-post fashion. They begin casually, they wander about, sometimes they have little story line, perhaps no closure. They have theme, though; they have, usually, a consistent point of view. Carol Shields is a critic, is a novelist, is an excellent writer of short stories; she knows how these things work. She must remind her readers of Alice Munro.
Not that you would confuse Shields and Munro, though the worlds they draw many of their subjects from are often the same: the professional maze, with its own rules for survival; the domestic scene, banal but viewed in an odd light; the perpetual, depressing puzzle of the generations—"Family Secrets" is a title for either author. But though they both deliver the knockout blow concealed in casualness, Shields is clearer, crisper—devastating but perhaps not quite so devastating as the more diffuse Munro.
The title story, initially one that seems an unlikely choice, insinuates its significance, but you know it's there: that momentary flash of numinousness in the dull disorder of existence. The inadequacy of the response. Bulwarking a collapsing marriage, the couple in "The Orange Fish" buy a print of a...
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SOURCE: "A Fine Romance," in Books in Canada, Vol. XXI, No. 3, April, 1992, p. 40.
[In the following review of The Republic of Love, Donovan argues that Shields has taken the typical romance and infused it with depth and realism.]
Carol Shields a romance writer? In her latest novel, The Republic of Love, Shields takes the reader on a foray into the cold landscape of the late 20th century. Her two protagonists, Fay McLeod and Tom Avery, personably document their respective states: Fay. a recently involved, now single folklorist who is studying the mermaid myth, and Tom, a lonely late-night talk-show host with three failed marriages under his belt. That they will meet and fall in love is inevitable; it is the stuff of romance novels. And, indeed, it is one of the devices Shields purposely adopts from the genre.
Technically, the book is crisply divided into parallel chapters alternating the narratives of Fay and Tom. Their stories progress separately, although minor characters familiar to them both pass from narrative to narrative. Roughly halfway through the book, Fay and Tom meet and fall immediately in love. Interestingly, although their lives now interweave, the narrative threads of their stories are kept separate, presumably to allow the reader to assess Fay through Tom's eyes and Tom through Fay's. This very successfully gives Shields ample room for irony....
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SOURCE: "Formal Strategies in a Female Narrative Tradition: The Case of Swann: A Mystery," in Anxious Power: Reading, Writing, and Ambivalence in Narrative by Women, State University of New York Press, 1993, pp. 19-32.
[In the following essay, Sweeney argues that in Swann, Shields focuses on the meaning and ambiguity of feminist literature.]
My department, like many others, is debating how best to incorporate minority authors, marginalized texts, and unconventional genres into the canon—into the canon, that is, which we teach our sophomore majors in a two-semester course entitled "Traditions of English Literature." At a departmental discussion on whether to include Adrienne Rich in this syllabus, one of my colleagues, a narrative theorist and stalwart formalist, said he would gladly teach Rich's poetry in the context of her feminism—but only if he was persuaded that her feminism was expressed in the form as well as the content of her poetry.
I, too, am a formalist. I am also a feminist. I believe that women do write differently than men—because, as women, they respond differently to a literary tradition which is primarily composed by men, for men, and of men, and in which women appear often as muses and mistresses but seldom as readers or writers. Such a masculine tradition, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar explain, prompts intensely divided...
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SOURCE: "Imagination's Invisible Ink," in Women's Review of Books, Vol. XI, No. 8, May, 1994, p. 20.
[In the following review of Happenstance and The Stone Diaries, Pool argues that while similar in nature and focus, the latter is more complex.]
You would expect that good books from a country as close to us (in every sense) as Canada would quickly find American covers. Apparently not. It has taken more than a decade for the first US edition of Carol Shields' Happenstance to appear, and I suspect we might not have it even now if her latest work, The Stone Diaries, had not been short-listed for last year's Booker Prize. Whatever their literary merit, awards are good promotion even for finalists, encouraging publishers to furnish early and out-of-print work. In Shields' case this is all to the good, and I hope we will soon see her earlier novels, Small Ceremonies and The Box Garden. Her work should be read in its entirety, that entirety hangs together so well.
Shields staked out her fictional territory early in her novel-writing life, and has explored it inventively ever since. Her realm of interest is the chronicling of lives, our efforts to find stories that give them shape and meaning. Underlying her own chronicling of people chronicling lives is the point that no one ever really knows enough. Shields' characters may be professional biographers...
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SOURCE: "A Celebrator of the Little Things," in New York Times, Vol. CXLIV, No. 50057, May 10, 1995, p. B2.
[In the following review of The Stone Diaries, Gussow provides background on the Shields's life and career.]
The Stone Diaries, which won this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a rich, panoramic novel in the guise of a biography. As Carol Shields traces the life of Daisy Goodwill, from birth to death, through the 20th century, she creates a family tree and inserts an album of family photographs in the center of the book to underscore the tangibility of her characters.
"When I read biography," she said during an interview, "I always turn to the section of photographs and check the text against the image, again and again, so that when I'm finished reading the book, it opens all by itself to that place."
With the help of her editor, she said, she looked for photos that would reflect her feeling about her invented characters, eclectically gathering them from museums, antique stores and a Parisian postcard market. The last two pages of the photo insert are actually childhood pictures of Ms. Shields's son and four daughters.
At 59, the novelist has five grandchildren; she published her first novel when she was 40. Until then, in very traditional fashion, she brought up her children and managed the household as her husband pursued his...
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SOURCE: "Sadness and Light," in Canadian Forum, Vol. LXXIV, No. 846, January-February, 1996, pp. 46-7.
[In the following review of Coming to Canada, Hamelin praises Shields's poetry, stating that in it readers hear the same poignant voice of her novels.]
It is difficult to read Carol Shields' collection of poetry, Coming to Canada, without preconceptions; by now, we know her voice well and find ourselves looking for glimmers of Daisy Goodwill and shades of Mary Swann. And in fact the poems in this retrospective—which includes selections from Others (1972), Intersect (1974) and an earlier volume also entitled Coming to Canada (1992), as well as 33 new ones—have the same honest, unpretentious intensity as Shields' best fiction. Shields excels at character and description, and many of the poems are like little novels, tiny scenes held up to the light.
In his introduction, Christopher Levenson expresses surprise that the poems are not "as full of sweetness and light" as he had expected. But since most of them are tinged with an awareness of mortality, of missed opportunities, or a certain anxiety, this comment leaves one wondering if Shields is still a victim of what could be called the L.M. Montgomery Syndrome, where women who write about the domestic realm are often underrated. In fact, the reflective and philosophical bent of a number of the poems...
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SOURCE: "Smaller than Life," in Women's Review of Books, Vol. XIII, No. 7, April, 1996, pp. 17-18.
[In the following review of Small Ceremonies and The Box Garden, Lipton compares the protagonists from each novel.]
Small Ceremonies and The Box Garden, Carol Shields' earliest published novels, unfold in Canadian suburbs and cars; they portray the lives of decent people who slowly pull meaning, sometimes wisdom, out of mundane pain and familiar satisfactions. Indeed, the books are like laboratories where Shields peruses the commonplace and discovers her metier. There is nothing in them that is larger than life. There is something, however, that makes Small Ceremonies and The Box Garden remarkable, particularly for women readers: the protagonist of each book is a woman who writes.
Small Ceremonies was published in Canada in 1976, The Box Garden in 1977. I suspect they were originally intended as one book which didn't coalesce and so was divided into two. The main characters are two sisters who make appearances in both books. Small Ceremonies is told in Judith (McNinn) Gill's voice. She is a successful biographer of the unfamous and a wife and mother in her early forties, contentedly married to Martin, a Milton specialist who teaches at a nearby university. Their two children are Richard, nine, and Meredith, sixteen....
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SOURCE: "The Masculine Maze," in Maclean's, Vol. 110, No. 39, September 29, 1997, pp. 82, 85.
[In the following review of Larry's Party, Turbide writes that once again Shields focuses on characters' self-evaluations although this time from the perspective of an average man.]
By the end of a sunny Monday earlier this month, Winnipeg novelist Carol Shields had been put through the wringer. She had gingerly made her way through a scraggly hedge and leant against a tree to accommodate a magazine photographer. ("Make sure you show the manicure," she teased him, flashing russet-colored nails. "It's a rare thing.") She had been interviewed twice, once for print and once for TV, fielding questions about her new novel, Larry's Party. From her office at the University of Winnipeg, where she is chancellor, she had called ahead to a local Italian restaurant to pre-order a 6 p.m. meal for herself, husband Don and a guest. The dinner would be quick because she had to get to a 7:30 launch at the city's handsome superstore, McNally Robinson. And, oh yes, she had picked up a new green dress before heading home for a late afternoon photo shoot, this one for People magazine. Although Shields sailed through it all with a mixture of military precision and good humor, she says it takes its toll. "Just listening to yourself blathering on induces a certain amount of self-loathing," admits the Pulitzer...
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Addison, Catherine. "Lost Things." Canadian Literature, No. 121 (Summer 1989): 158-60.
Argues that Swann is reflective of Shields herself.
Beaton, Virginia. A review of A Celibate Season, by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard. Books in Canada XX, No. 8 (November 1991): 51.
Argues that A Celibate Season is well-written and believable.
Beddoes, Julie. "Sweet Nothings." Books in Canada 10, No. 5 (May 1981): 31-2.
Argues that although Shields is successful in developing characters, Happenstance lacks a sufficient plot.
Benedict, Elizabeth. "Below the Surface." Los Angeles Times Book Review (17 April 1994): 3, 7.
Favorably reviews Happenstance, A Fairly Conventional Woman, and The Stone Diaries.
Bessai, Diane. "Poetry from Ottawa." The Canadian Forum LV, No. 652 (July 1975): 36-8.
Reviews Intersect and argues that Shields needs more editing of her poetry.
Campbell, Grant. A review of Swann: A Mystery, by Carol Shields. Queen's Quarterly 96, No. 1 (Spring 1989): 153-55....
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