PPRL: The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields (winner, 1995)

I consider myself a decent enough writer, but man do I ever freeze up in the face of a book review. I just cannot distill several plot points down into a few paragraphs that also summarize a novel's writing style, narrative structure, etc. Doing so bores me to tears, and I'm sure it bores everyone else, too. I know I'm not saying anything different than anyone else has on, say, Goodreads.

What I can do is identify themes, big juicy themes best suited to deeper academic exploration essays - that's still a lot of fun for me. Vive la English major I guess. So in the interest of better enjoying my Pulitzer Prize Reading List Challenge (and no longer having to dread writing the concomitant reviews), I'm changing things up! From now on my responses to the novels will just be a few writing prompts - whatever jumped out at me during my reading, as subjects that might be interesting to write about, longform. And now without further ado, I present

Ellie's Suggested Discussion Topics For The Stone Diaries, Gladly Offered To Anyone For Whom They May Be of Use

1. Explore the role of the natural world in the novel. Discuss the interplay of stone vs. flower, and what each represents (hard vs. soft? dead vs. living? masculine vs. feminine?). Compare and contrast the qualities of resiliency/permanency (such as with Cuyler's stone, his quarrying and carving) and transience/renewal (such as with Daisy's garden and flowering perennials). What are the implications of mining vs. planting, both literally and figuratively? Consider the "planting" of family roots, and the "mining" of genealogical history, such as when Daisy and Victoria visit the Orkney Islands. How do their respective desires to "dig up" bones (actual fossils, in Victoria's case, and to find the grave of Magnus Flett, in Daisy's case) reflect the novel's theme of growth vs. decay?

2. Discuss the theme of sexuality in The Stone Diaries. What are some of the ways it is expressed (or repressed) by the novel's characters? Consider Barker's brief flash of pedophiliac attraction to young Daisy (note the Lolita allusion re: using the tip of the tongue to remove something from her eye), or the sensual attraction Clarentine Flett feels towards Mercy Goodwill, or even Daisy's limited, Ladies Home Journal-guided experience of sex (and what her incuriosity/apathy means). How do the images of stone and flower play into the theme of sexuality? (Consider for example Cuyler's marital ardor, and the tower he later constructs as a dedication to his dead wife. What are the implications of redirecting that sexual energy into a phallic but coldly impotent structure?)