The Stone Diaries
Reviewed: January 31, 2007
By: Carol Shields / narrated by Sarah Botsford
Publisher: BTC Audio Books
5 hours on 4 CDs, $35.00
As it’s been about 12 years since I
read The Stone Diaries I wasn’t completely certain what to expect from
this dramatic reading when Gooselane Editions sent it along for review. I
did recall that there was a portion of the book which had a lot of letters
in it, and I wondered how that would work.
I needn’t have worried. I was caught
from the opening words, in which Daisy Goodwill tells us of the events which
occurred on the day of her birth and some of those which occurred before,
all narrated in the first person by a present tense voice which never really
stops looks at herself from the outside throughout the novel.
The exceptions to this narrative voice,
which carries most of the book, are the sections that are letters from others
and the monologues that attempt to account for Daisy’s nervous collapse during
the year after she lost her cherished position as Mrs. Greenthumb in one of
the Ottawa newspapers.
Before all that, however, Daisy has
to be born, lose her mother in the very act, be spirited off to Winnipeg by
her next door neighbour, be reunited some years later with her father, move
to Indiana, grow up, be trapped into a very strange marriage during which
her husband dies on the honeymoon before they can consummate the deed, move
to Ottawa and marry the older man who helped his mother raise her when she
was young, have her own children, rescue one of her in-laws and help her raise
her daughter, and suffer the loss of her husband and the need to find a new
focus for her life.
By then Daisy Goodwill has become Mrs.
Barker Flett and Mrs. Greenthumb and grandmother and a senior citizen living
in Florida with the friends of her Indiana youth.
Her father, long since deceased at
that point, left behind two monuments. In the graveyard of the village where
Daisy was born, Cuyler Goodwill had erected a great stone monument to the
memory of his beloved Mercy, Daisy’s mother. On the back lawn of his Indiana
retirement cottage, he had preserved more of that memory within a stone pyramid,
the very thing he was working on the day he died. These stone diaries are
one of the records of a life. Others can be found in the letters and recorded
memories of Daisy’s friends, which emerge from the story like ribbon wrapped
papers out of a shoe box, all surrounded by the voice of Daisy, who seems
to observe herself as from a distance and seems to marvel at how it all works
out. Born in 1905, died in 199_(something), Daisy Goodwill Flett comes across
as a very real person in these pages.
Sarah Botsford has done a wonderful
job with the many voices of this book, and the abridgment, though it has to
leave out a lot, nevertheless feels as if we have a complete text at our ears.