2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
October 6, 2006
There are a lot of books out there written purely for entertainment and then are the more scholarly, "artsy" books like "The Stone Diaries" that unless they get Oprah's endorsement usually aren't read in the mainstream. These latter category of books have more freedom to experiment with different styles and techniques. This can make for an interesting story or it can make for a dull, albeit somewhat thought-provoking read. Again the latter categroy best describes "The Stone Diaries."
I hate to say a book is boring because I sound like a five-year-old trying to squirm his through an opera, but this book is BORING. The problem lies with Daisy herself. She isn't interesting. She does nothing interesting. Almost nothing interesting happens to her. Her first husband for all of two weeks gets drunk and falls out a window; that's the most interesting thing that happens to her. That and her birth in the kitchen of her father's
The most agonizing part for me is it takes the book so long to even get to Daisy. The first 90 pages of the novel go by without knowing more than basic information about her. We read nothing about her childhood except her getting sick and developing an allergy. We read nothing about her teenage years in
The only way to appreciate this book, especially near the end, is to think, "Daisy is like me" or someone you know. But then it's pretty depressing to think most of us are this bland and ordinary. We'd like to think we're special but if we see ourselves in Daisy then we are anything but special.
The narration for this book was confusing as well. It refers to Daisy in the 3rd person most of the time, but then throws in first-person references as well. There's also a paragraph or two halfway through saying how unreliable Daisy is as a narrator. Upon reading that, what am I the reader supposed to believe? All of this as well as the frequent time shifts, cuts to letters, "theories", recipes, notes, and so forth left me dazed, confused, and feeling empty.
Of course you can say, "This won a Pulitzer, so what do you know?" I've read many of the Pulitzer winners over the last 15 years or so and there aren't many I'd recommend reading unless you're a literary snob. I'd theorize it's because most of these winners aren't written with the intent of entertaining readers.
All in all I think there might have been a way to make this uninteresting topic interesting, but Shields doesn't do enough to make that happen. You're better served contemplating your own dull, empty life than reading someone else's.
To close, I'd like to point you to John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom books, starting with "Rabbit, Run" that chronicle a relatively ordinary person in a much more fascinating, entertaining way. The last two books in the series even won Pulitzers. There's a literary experiment that succeeded brilliantly.