three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-CollectedStoriesShe wrote 10 novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Stone Diaries), four plays, three books of poetry, and a biography. Now all 56 of Carol Shields’s short stories are available in one anthology, which also includes an entirely new story. "Segue" resembles the rest of Shields’ work in that it explores a woman’s transit through middle age and reveals the small, telling details lurking in a routine domestic setting; an aging novelist and his wife contemplate the decay of their bodies in relation to their dying marriage. In her introduction, Margaret Atwood gives an overview of Shields’s life and work.
Fourth Estate. 593 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 0060762039

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"While many of her stories revolve around women resigned to seemingly common, even dull lives, Shields reveals their rich if often confused or troubled or saddened inner beings. … She was that rare writer who could bridge the gap between the serious literary and the engagingly popular." Ron Antonucci

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Shields’s Collected Stories proves her writing to be as refined as we knew it to be, but more surprising, daring and varied than we may have supposed. … [H]er stories have an uncanny ability to launch the reader into his own memories, to evoke long-forgotten feelings." Jenny Shank

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Again and again, her strong characters and stories, buoyed by rich detail, affirm the splendor of imagination and invention." Christine Thomas

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"At heart a hopeful writer, Shields had a stubborn faith in the possibility of human connection. … Shields has left us with an intricate literary map of human relationships and with certain proof that the radiant strangeness of ordinary people is always hidden within plain sight." Laura Ciolkowski

Providence Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While Shields never attained the artistic heft of Atwood, her spirit makes the best of these stories live as memorable testaments to the sturdiness of human nature in the face of life’s vagaries."
Beth Taylor

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"What makes Shields’s collection exceptional is her quietly virtuoso resourcefulness at bringing people and situations alive." Ann Hulbert

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Taken together, Shields’s stories risk seeming like curiously weightless exercises—lightly parodic postmodern turns. Yet this eclectic bundle of fragments also serves to highlight her novelistic gift and heft." Ann Hulbert

Critical Summary

Shields, a critically acclaimed Canadian writer who died in 2003, was best known for fictionalizing the lives of women. In this collection she shows her wider range. Most critics recommend these stories for any Shields fan and as a starting point for new readers. Only The New York Times Book Review described her work as "sometimes mannered linguistic musings" that "conjure up a very writerly writer honing her technical and theoretical skills and paying little attention to conventions of plot and character." Playing with language, exploring intimate relationships, and examining small town life through Shields’s eyes are all contained in this volume.

Also by the Author

In our profile and interview with Carol Shields in our Nov/Dec 2002 issue, we wrote Where to Start: "The Stone Diaries displays Shields’s virtuosity in creating a life’s history through intimate language and an intriguing format. Unless continues with unprecedented power as Shields’s multi-layered narrative weaves Reta’s story through the reader’s consciousness."