The Stone Diaries Critical Overview
by Carol Shields

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Critical Overview

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Typical nuclear family, circa 1950s Published by Gale Cengage

Critical Overview Shortly upon its publication in 1993, The Stone Diaries began to receive high praise and win awards. That year it was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Booker Prize; it won the first of these two in 1994. Also in 1993, Publishers Weekly listed it as one of the year's best books and the New York Times Book Review identified it as a "Notable Book." In the August 20, 1993, New Statesman & Society, in an excellent review of the work, Kathryn Hughes described the novel as "a sharp-as-tacks investigation into the limits of the autobiographical form." While Hughes pointed out that "[w]hole tracts of [Daisy's] life … appear to have been emptied of meaning," it is precisely "into those voids and gaps that Shields inserts her narrative, filling up the ruptures in Daisy's interior life with an account of the strange double-headed family (no mother, two fathers) that produced her." Hughes explained that "Shields holds fast to the conceit that this is no novel, but rather a documentary account of an ordinary Canadian woman's life of the type that became so central to recuperative feminist history in the 1970s." Finally, Hughes pointed out the "wonderful prose" that is both "abundant and particular." In December 1993 a review in Publishers Weekly stressed that "Stone is the unifying image here: it affects the geography of Daisy's life, and ultimately her vision of herself"; this review praised the novel for its "succinct, clear and graceful" prose style.

Alice Joyce, writing for Booklist on February 1, 1994, described the novel's subject as "the commonplace but never mundane life of Daisy Goodwill." Joyce praised the "finely crafted fiction" as "[a]ltogether satisfying" because it "reveal[s] the transformation of an unremarkable life into a reflecting pool of change." In the same month, Allyson F. McGill wrote a review of the novel for Belles Lettres: A Review of Books by Women . McGill explained how Daisy Goodwill Flett's life is "extraordinary" even though it "follows the familiar trajectory," that for example in her brief marriage to Harold Hoad, Daisy's quite typical life is "touched by the...

(The entire section is 521 words.)