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Sunny side up

Penelope Fitzgerald

9 September 1993
The Stone Diaries 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 361 pp., £12.99, September 1993, 1 85702 154 1
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... cells will be replaced in death by ‘the insentience of mineral deposition’. A train of imagery, then, which recalls the mermaid metaphors, ‘giving off the fishy perfume of ambiguity’ in Shields’s last novel, The Republic of Love. The present book is just as readable, but more disconcerting. The section headings – Birth, 1905; Child-hood, 1916; Marriage, 1927; Love, 1936; Motherhood ...

How to Be Good

Elaine Showalter: Carol Shields

11 July 2002
Unless 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 213 pp., £16.99, May 2002, 0 00 713770 2
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... wars, families, communities, national change, terrorism and history.’ Not all women novelists would agree that such transformations are a liberation, however. In her recent biography of Austen, CarolShields was also writing about her own credo as a woman novelist whose subjects have been domestic, whose endings have been happy, and whose literary ambitions have been trivialised. First, she ...

In Ontario

Carol Shields

7 February 1991
Friend of My Youth 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 273 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 7011 3663 4
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... The Canadian writer Alice Munro once likened a good short story to a commodious house whose every room possesses an exterior door. So accommodating a house, she wrote, is capable of admitting visitors through any number of openings, just as a story can be entered by way of its separate sections or paragraphs or even its individual sentences or words. The rewards for the reader, she suggests, have to ...

Heads and Hearts

Patrick Parrinder

28 May 1992
Underworld 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3895 5
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A Case of Curiosities 
by Allen Kurzweil.
Hamish Hamilton, 358 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 241 13235 5
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Rotten Times 
by Paul Micou.
Bantam, 266 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 593 02621 7
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The Republic of Love 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 366 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 1 872180 88 4
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... Rotten Times the main character suffers from a hyperactive access of memory, known as Tourraine’s Syndrome, brought on while he was shaving in an aircraft flying through a thunderstorm. Even CarolShields’s The Republic of Love, by far the most mundane of these novels, starts off with a sentence that could easily have graced a Science Fiction magazine: ‘As a baby, Tom Avery had 27 mothers ...

Among the quilters

Peter Campbell

21 March 1991
Asya 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 313 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 7011 3509 3
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Health and Happiness 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 260 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 0 7011 3597 2
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Happenstance 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 388 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 1 872180 08 6
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... of this kind, yet the university novel has so demystified the academy, and the dramas natural to it are so parochial, that it is hard to make a hero out of a professor with a moral problem. In CarolShields’s Happenstance Jack Bowman, cornered in his job at an academic institute, living with his wife Brenda in the suburbs of Chicago, has to see his friend Bernie through marital troubles just when his ...
27 September 1990
Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... day’ is more appealing than this grumpy down-to-earthness, and it would take a good deal more art than Forster deploys here to make it otherwise. Mary Swann is the first book by the Canadian writer CarolShields to be published in this country. This is a very good novel, alive in every sense: formally ingenious and inventive, strikingly evocative of place, of character, of the world of things ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah

4 November 2004
Ghosting 
by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... she insists, but aesthetics. The sex act she believes has little to do with words. Depends, I suppose, who you do it with.She spent a few days dipping into novels – Penelope Fitzgerald, Anne Tyler, CarolShields, Beryl Bainbridge, William Trevor, Tim Parks among others – to limber up. Then she rolled up her sleeves and having extracted the technical nuts and bolts (beginning, middle, end; main and ...

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