Carol Shields Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Carol Ann Warner Shields was born on June 2, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois, a middle-class community on the outskirts of Chicago. After graduating from a local high school, she attended Hanover College. While there, she participated in an exchange program with Exeter University in England where, when traveling to Scotland, she met her future husband, Canadian civil engineer Donald Hugh Shields. In 1957, Carol graduated from Hanover with a B.A. in English. Soon afterward, she married Donald, and the two moved to Canada. There, the couple lived in Vancouver, Toronto, and finally Ottawa. Two of their five children were born during this time: John and Anne. The Shields family moved to England in 1960 so that Donald could complete a doctorate at Manchester University. When the family returned to Canada, they settled in Toronto, where Shields took a magazine writing course at the University of Toronto. Her teacher sold Shields’s first short story to the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC); she won CBC’s Young Writers Competition in 1965.

Meanwhile, Shields’s family continued to grow: Daughters Catherine, Margaret, and Sara were born. Carol enrolled in an M.A. program at the University of Ottawa and earned her degree in 1975 after writing a thesis on a nineteenth century Canadian writer, which became the basis for her critical book Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (1976).

During her time at the University of Ottawa, Shields became a...

(The entire section is 503 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Carol Shields’s explorations of the struggles and frustrations of the ordinary man and woman reflect her notions about how personal history mirrors the larger history which surrounds it. Shields’s attention to her characters’ perseverance in spite of sometimes bleak situations makes them heroic in spite of their surface ordinariness. Furthermore, Shields’s playfully postmodern use of narrative structure and point of view allows her to present these modern, middle-class characters in more innovative and fully realized manifestations.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Carol Shields was born Carol Ann Warner in Oak Park, Illinois, on June 2, 1935, the third and youngest child of Robert Warner and Inez Warner (née Selgren). Her father supervised a candy company, and her mother taught grade school. Carol grew up in a household in which books were treasured by her parents and her older twin siblings; she taught herself to read before she began formal schooling. After completing her studies at Oak Park High School in 1953, she left Illinois to attend Hanover College in Indiana. She spent her junior year abroad, studying in England at the University of Exeter, where she met and fell in love with Donald Shields. Following her graduation from Hanover, they married and returned to England so that Donald, a civil engineer, could enter a doctoral program at the University of Manchester. Their union produced four children, a son and three daughters.

In 1963, Shields and her family settled in Toronto, Canada, where in 1971 the transplanted American became a Canadian citizen. In the midst of raising a family and running a household, Shields carved out time for her writing. In 1964 she submitted a poem to the Young Writers Competition, sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and won. Encouraged by her success, Shields continued to write and to submit her work for publication. Her poems appeared in print in various Canadian journals, and several were broadcast on CBC programs. Her output as a poet resulted in the...

(The entire section is 408 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carol Shields’s novels have been lauded for their deft exploration of marriage, parenthood, and the battle between the sexes. Shields was a perceptive, and sometimes humorous, observer of social trends whose work is more serious in tone than it may initially appear. “Because she’s a comic writer and genuinely funny, early on, she was put in the ‘sweet’ box, where she does not belong,” Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once said. “The fact is, there’s a dark thread in everything she writes.” Critics have often commented on Shields’s descriptive prose, comparing her work with that of British novelist A. S. Byatt and Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro.

The author was born Carol Warner on June 2, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois, a prosperous suburb of Chicago which is also the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. Her father managed a candy factory, and her mother was a schoolteacher. The author has described her childhood as bookish and happy. As a student at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, she was participating in a study abroad program in England when she met Canadian engineering student Donald Shields. They were married in 1957, six weeks after her college graduation. A week after their wedding, Shields followed her husband to Canada, never to live in the United States again.

While her husband pursued an academic career, ultimately becoming a professor of engineering at the University of Manitoba, Shields was a devoted wife and mother. She gave birth to five children within a span of ten years. While her children were in school, Shields kept busy, writing poetry and fiction. During this time she studied at the University of Ottawa, where she received an M.A. Her thesis was on nineteenth century writer Susanna Moodie. Moodie was an Englishwoman who, like Shields, established her literary career after...

(The entire section is 753 words.)