For the first time all of Carol Shields’ remarkable short stories – some previously unpublished – are gathered together in one volume.
‘Carol Shields’ stories have given me happiness, not just pleasure’ Alice Munro
In the Collected Stories we bring together Carol Shields’ original short-story volumes, Various Miracles, The Orange Fish and Dressing Up for the Carnival, as well as many stories not previously published in the UK, including ‘Segue’, her last work.
In these stories the author combines the dazzling virtuosity and wise maturity that won so many readers to her prize-winning novels such as The Stone Diaries and Unless.
‘Carol Shields sings with the charm of a true siren.’ Guardian
‘Carol Shield’s prose is addictive. Her writing is both smoothly intelligent and sensually immediate, conflating concrete domestic realities with the elemental and miraculous.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Her perceptions are so quick, her style is so acute, that she can tack a breath to the page and skewer a thought on the wing. It is her speciality to isolate moments that remain distinct in the mind for years, perhaps for a lifetime.’ Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times
‘Shields is about the best we have. She does not just express what oft was thought; she snags the shadows of those thoughts, the thoughts we did not know we had. The effect – at once elating and visceral – feels like a conjurer pulling a handkerchief from your heart.’ Daily Telegraph
About the author
Carol Shields’s novels include Unless (2003), Larry’s Party (1997), winner of the 1998 Orange Prize; The Stone Diaries (1993), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Republic of Love (1992); Happenstance (1991) and Mary Swann (1990). Dressing Up for the Carnival, a bestselling collection of short stories, was published in 2000, and a previous collection, Various Miracles, was published in 1994. Born and brought up in Chicago, Carol Shields lived in Canada from 1957 until her death in 2003.
Shields, who died in 2003, was best known for her novels (The Stone Diaries; Unless), though she published three collections of stories over as many decades, here elegantly gathered and introduced by fellow Canadian and friend Margaret Atwood. Appearing first is her last unpublished tale, "Segue," about an aging couple in failing health he a famous novelist, she a writer of sonnets who grow apart as they take "responsibility for own dying bodies." The story serves as a poignant tribute. Overall, Shields's touch is gorgeously light, her tales capturing brief, evanescent moments in the busy lives of couples, mothers and lonely wives. If a few entries seem too brief or lack development, "Hazel" (from The Orange Fish) demonstrates all the elements of Shields's mastery: an ordinary widow, perhaps too polite for her own good, finds a satisfying job as an itinerant kitchen demonstrator and discovers that her timidity and self-effacement can actually be turned to her advantage. From the same collection, the story "Collision" draws on Shields's extended travels and is set in a "small ellipsoid state in eastern Europe," where two lonely people of exotically different background and language collide on a rainy night; the story pursues a separate "biography" of each of the lovers with "every narrative scrap... equally honored." In "Edith-Esther," a story from Shields's last collection, the author prophetically portrays the eponymous protagonist, an 80-year-old novelist, as a "rare bird," pestered by her biographer for "some spiritual breeze" he can put into his book about her. She resists, but the biographer reworks her life the way he wants and in the end, to her dismay, refashions her work as uplifting the last thing she intended it to be. Uplifting or not, this is a volume full of grace and wisdom. Correction:The literary agents for Diane Chamberlain's The Bay at Midnight (Forecasts, Jan. 10) are Jennifer Rudolph Walsh and Tracy Fisher at the William Morris Agency.