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de Carol Shields
» 25 més
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Carol Shields is an excellent and prolific contemporary literary author. Having lost a loved one to mental illness I anticipated a very different ending to this story. I must say I am very pleased the my anticipated ending was very much in error. Unless is a very enjoyable read and will stick with you. That said, Larry's Party remains my favorite book by Ms. Shields. ( )
“Norah had dropped out of university, she had parted from her boyfriend, she was pursuing a path to spiritual goodness, which the family couldn’t quite understand, she was detaching herself from the rest of us, sleeping in a hostel, and yes, begging money at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor in downtown Toronto – but everyone held out hopes that she would return to being the Norah we knew and loved.”
Protagonist Reta Winters is a translator and novelist with three teenage daughters. She is in a happy long-term relationship with the father of her children, though they never married. She has written one novel and started a sequel. Life has been going well for Reta when her eldest daughter, Norah, suddenly and significantly changes her behavior. She starts sitting near a busy intersection in Toronto, holding up a sign that reads “Goodness.” We follow Reta’s inner dialogue as she tries to figure out what has happened to derail her daughter’s life. As Reta puts it:
“I am going through some bleak days…. I, too, am hungry for the comfort of the ‘entire universe,’ but I don’t know how to assemble it and neither does [Norah]. I sense something incomplete about the whole arrangement, like a bronze casting that’s split open in the foundry, an artifact destined by some invisible flaw to break apart.”
This book is quiet but poignant. It is filled with beautifully crafted prose. Shields drives the narrative forward through Reta’s inner dialogue, as she tries to make sense of what has happened, while also carrying out the routines of daily living and writing her novel. The interactions of the characters provide an insightful look at the process of publishing, writing, translating, and editing. These scenes are often witty and humorous. By the end, I felt I knew Reta and would love to spend time with her.
Sometimes an author comes along that feels like she is speaking directly to me. Carol Shields is such an author. I plan to read all of her work. I simply love her writing and this book will be in my top ten books of the year.
I actually found this book incredibly hard to get through. The difficulty upset me actually, because Small Ceremonies, Stone Diaries and Larry's Party were great! This one was just too much "oh woe is me."
I very much liked this book. I was a little worried about the titles of the chapters - "so", "instead", "hence", ...and of course "unless" - worried that this might go stream-of-consciousness. But I need not have been concerned. The book has a trajectory that takes us along.
Reta Winters, a capable parent and writer, is thrown when her oldest daughter, Norah, suddenly drops out from school and sits on a street corner holding a begging bowl and wearing a sign that says "goodness". She worries about her daughter's safety, her health, her emotional state. She wonders why. Why this particular act? Her daughter does not offer an explanation.
Meanwhile, Reta writes letters to male authors about the exclusion of women in their lists, their perceptions, but doesn't mail them. She continues to translate a French feminist's work and lives within it. Her life in her family continues without Norah.
Quietly, other members of the family "visit" Norah or help her in other ways. She won't explain herself but they love her and try not to intrude.
Reta has written a light novel which has found such success that her publisher wants a sequel. Reluctantly, Reta agrees, but over time the new novel morphs into something altogether different.
As others have done, I will repeat Shields' statement here:
"A life is full of isolated events, but these events, if they are to form a coherent narrative, require odd pieces of language to cement them together, little chips of grammar (mainly adverbs or prepositions) that are hard to define, since they are abstractions of location or relative position, words like therefore, else, other, also, thereof, theretofore, instead, otherwise, despite, already, and not yet."
She amplifies:"...what really is the point of novel writing when the unjust world howls and writhes...unless they can provide an alternative, hopeful course, they're just so much narrative crumble".
As I struggle with Reta to make sense of her life, I agree with many others that this novel is not narrative crumble. It's deeply moving and engaging.
Truly lovely. I didn't want to stop reading. As she says, a woman writing about a woman writing (about a woman writing!) could end up endlessly recursive and solipsistic, but it doesn't. I love the way she structures this work, with the different aspects of Reta's life, history, letters etc. She builds up a portrait in such a tender way. I could stay immersed in her writing for a long time.
This is the first novel I've read by Carol Shields (I think? I'm terrible with names), and it definitely won't be the last. I read one of her short stories at book group which I also loved, so I'm going to seek out more of them too.
Highly recommend this.
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You hear Iris Murdoch at the back of this book somewhere, or at least Shields has ingrained Murdoch's faith in love, and pursues her stringent inquisition into hope. The result is as poised and wise a novel as any you will read this year.
There is a sense of wintry urgency about Unless - of any pretence of charm being dropped in order to get things said. But the charm is still there, and it shouldn't be belittled.
But Unless is her angriest book to date - a study in awakening and the belated loss of innocence...Unless could be classified as a novel about a woman writing a novel about a woman who writes. But this would suggest something claustrophobic, which it isn't. Though only 200 pages long, it finds room to digress on friendship, shopping, marital sex, relativity theory, hair ("I consider coiffure one of my major life accomplishments. I really mean this"), graffiti and much besides....There is a sense of wintry urgency about Unless - of any pretence of charm being dropped in order to get things said. But the charm is still there, and it shouldn't be belittled. Bard of the banal? No, elegist of the everyday. We should celebrate her achievement while we can.
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Wikipedia en anglès (2)
For all of her days, Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light fiction novels "for summertime." This placid existence cracks open one fearful day when her beloved oldest daughter, Norah, drops out of life to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads "GOODNESS." Reta's search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope. Warmth, passion, and wisdom come together in Carol Shields' remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family's anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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