Wednesday, August 3, 2011

BOOK: The Box Garden by Carol Shields

The Box Garden by Carol Shields, 213 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5

I am starting to really enjoy Carol Shields writing. I can't read her books very quickly as her prose is jam packed and it took me a while to read her way. I had already tried a number of her books, (was underwhelmed by The Stone Diaries as my first book but enjoyed The Celibate Season written with Blanche Howard)  but after reading Unless, I decided I wanted to read all her books.   The Box Garden was originally published in 1977 and makes it one of her first novels. My cover is equally as ugly as the one I've shown, but I have been unable to find the actual photo of it. Book covers have taken a decided change in the last few years, and books from the 1980s are so hideous. Someone should compile some ugly book covers from that era. Ew!

But he writes with the most pressing sort of intensity, something much larger than mere eloquence. Anguished. But reflective too. Not like a scientist at all. More like a poet. Or like a philosopher. p81

Charleen Forrest narrates this chapter in her life as she heads home to her mother's wedding in Toronto. It's the late 1970s and Charleen is struggling with her divorce and her seemingly (according to her friends) unsuccessful life on her own. Shields takes the time to develop Charleen and the people around her, but it is mostly about Charleen. The last third of the book takes a surprising turn that throws Charleen's life upside down and made me rush to the end.

I liked the setting and realizing how much life has changed in the last thirty or forty years. I remember being a kid in the late 1970s! When it was a huge deal to make a long distance call. When cross country travel was a big deal. Charleen is coming into her own during a time when many women were learning to live on their own, raise kids, and find themselves. Carol Shields has written a quiet book with a wonderful main character.