The Canadian Reading Challenge: Manitoba

You know how you get excited about a particular book, but are disappointed when you actually read it? But sometimes it’s the other way around – a book you’re lukewarm about reading turns out to be amazing!

That’s what happened to me with The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. My book club had read it before I joined, so when a copy was offered to me last year, I was happy to accept.  I finally seem to be caught up on my reading (if that’s even possible) so I pulled it off my shelf where it had remained unread all this time.

It was nothing at all like I expected, and I almost wonder if I had it confused with another book (The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence perhaps?).

First, I was surprised to note that it was published in 1993, because I was under the impression it had been around “forever.”

Secondly, I thought it was about the Stone family. Although there was one character named Stone, she died at the very beginning of the book.

Lastly, I thought it was a collection of fictional diary entries by the aforementioned family. Yes, some of it was in the form of diary entries, but it was much more.

The ten chapters take us through the life of Daisy Goodwill, from birth to death, but the method of telling the story varies throughout the novel. Sometimes Daisy is the narrator, but there are other sections where it’s from the point of view of one of her friends or her children. There’s even one chapter that’s comprised strictly of a series of assorted letters. It sounds like this could be confusing, but it wasn’t at all, and I loved the variety.

Although fictional, frequent references to actual place names, including street addresses, made it seem real, and this feeling was reinforced by a collection of photos in the middle, depicting various characters and even Daisy’s home in Ottawa.

Because Carol Shields lived in Winnipeg – which is also where the first two chapters take place – from 1980 to 2000, I’m counting this as my Canadian Reading Challenge book for Manitoba.

It wasn’t my intention to motor through the challenge; it just so happened that two of the books that have been lingering on my shelf fit the bill!

I’m taking a break from it now in order to read The Freedom Writers Diary, a collection of excerpts from actual diaries by at-risk students. I loved the movie which starred Hilary Swank as the idealistic young teacher who turned her students’ lives around, so I suggested it to my book club. I hope they enjoy it!

What book has surprised you? Was it a good surprise or a bad surprise?

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