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Carol Shields Biography

(1935–2003), Mary Swann, Possession, The Republic of Love, The Stone Diaries

story life death husband

Canadian-based novelist, born in Oak Park, Illinois, educated at Hanover College and the University of Ottawa. She settled in Canada in 1957. Though none of her novels had previously appeared in Britain, the publication of Mary Swann in 1990 gained her a reputation as one of the decade's significant novelists. With its intricate exploration of a poet's life, her death at her husband's hand, her subsequent reputation and posthumous mythologization, the book has been compared with A. S. Byatt's Possession published in the same year. Frequently compared to Munro and Atwood, Shields displays a characteristic gift of combining commonplace domestic themes with post-modernist techniques of considerable sophistication. The Republic of Love (1992) recounts the love affair of Fay Macleod, a folklorist, with the radio personality Tom Avery; an elaborate symbolic structure adds lustre to what is essentially the material of Hollywood romance. In The Stone Diaries (1993), Shields returns to the complexity of Mary Swann with the story of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth in 1905 to her death eight decades later, recounted in a variety of voices. The one pinnacle in Daisy's life is her short residency as a local paper's gardening correspondent and only as she ages are the traces of her natural intellect revealed to her intimates. Reissues of Shields's previous neglected works include Happenstance: The Husband's Story (1980) and Happenstance: The Wife's Story (1982). A collection of stories, Various Miracles, appeared in 1994.

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