Margaret Laurence published three books before The Stone Angel, all three set in Africa; The Stone Angel is the first of her works set in Canada. This novel was followed by three more and a collection of fiction, also set in and around Manawaka, a fictional place based on the real town of Neepawa, where Laurence’s family had long been established and where the author herself lived as a young child and teenager.
Two of the Manawaka books, A Jest of God (1966) and The Diviners (1974), won the Governor General’s Award for fiction, and A Jest of God was adapted for film (Rachel, Rachel, 1968). A film version of The Stone Angel was released in 2008. Laurence’s Manawaka books are considered her highest achievements, works of a writer who is often ranked as the finest Canadian novelist of her generation.
According to the letters quoted by Adele Wiseman in her afterword to The Stone Angel, as early as 1957, Laurence had been considering making an old woman the subject of a novel. However, after she began to write the work, she could see that it was hopelessly dull. Four years later, after an obnoxious old lady invaded her imagination, she found herself able to proceed. Laurence said that initially, she simply let her testy character tell her own story. Also, she had finished writing half the novel before realizing its structure and theme.
Laurence’s decision about the structure of The Stone Angel proved to be brilliant. Instead of making the novel a...
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