The Stone Diaries was awarded the 1993 Governor’s General Award for English language fiction in Canada and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction in the United States. It is one of the only books to have won both award since Shields was an American-born naturalized citizen of Canada and was thus eligible for both awards.
The Stone Diaries is the story of Daisy Goodwill’s life. The novel spans Daisy’s life from her tragic birth in Manitoba and encompasses much of the 20th century, following Daisy through her life to her death in 199_. (The actual year of Daisy’s death is never clearly indicated, which I find interesting since the book is divided by dates marking major shifts in Daisy’s life.)
We see Daisy through her own eyes as well as through the eyes of other members of her family, including Mrs. Flett her neighbor who is present at her birth, her father, her friends, her husband(s), her children, nieces, and other relatives since The Stone Diaries is told through multiple perspectives, often switching narrators in the middle of the chapter or sometimes within the space of the same page.
Portions of the tale of Daisy’s life are also told through a series of exchanged letters and other portions are told through lists and notes that Daisy has written to herself at various points in her life. Still, other portions of the story are told through the discovery of what she has left behind–the items she has collected, the newspaper clippings and pictures she has kept.
The Stone Diaries, overall, is an interesting character study of Daisy as she struggles to understand her place in life. Because this struggle is presented in multiple perspectives, we, as readers, get to see how Daisy perceives her role in life as well as how others perceive her place/role. Often these perceptions are contradictory, which makes the text a study in the act of narration and the reliability of the narrator as well. In some ways, The Stone Diaries reminded me of Olive Kitteridge, which is also chiefly a character study of the title character, told from a variety of perspectives. However, Shield’s novel is more tightly woven than Olive Kitteridge and I enjoyed the text more because Daisy was simply a more likable character in many aspects.
4 of 5 stars