Book 44, The Stone Angel (1964) – Margaret Laurence
“In her best-loved novel, The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence introduces Hagar Shipley, one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Stubborn, querulous, self-reliant – and, at ninety, with her life nearly behind her – Hagar Shipley makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence.
As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past. We meet Hagar as a young girl growing up in a black prairie town; as the wife of a virile but unsuccessful farmer with whom her marriage was stormy; as a mother who dominates her younger son; and, finally, as an old woman isolated by an uncompromising pride and by the stern virtues she has inherited from her pioneer ancestors.
Vivid, evocative, moving, The Stone Angel celebrates the triumph of the spirit, and reveals Margaret Laurence at the height of her powers as a writer of extraordinary craft and profound insight into the workings of the human heart.”
Other useful links:
the Wikipedia entry for The Stone Angel
Brilliant book, just as good as I remembered (though I remembered no details, so it was like reading it fresh). I’m all teary and goopy ’cause I just finished it. Hagar’s a great character to read about but she would be hell to live with (and I don’t mean just when she’s old). I felt much more sympathy for Marvin and Doris than I did the first time reading it. I mean, imagine being in your sixties and having to deal not only with your own issues, but having to take care of a woman who seems unable to make anything easy for anyone. My own mother is 68 and suffering from Graves disease which is giving her double vision, photo-sensitivity, and constant tearing. I can only imagine what a burden it would be for her to have an even older, sicker, and more difficult parent to take care of.
Anyway, I’m wondering if Laurence was writing with a moral—since anyone can see that Hagar would’ve had a happier life if she’d married someone her father (coincidently or not) approved of—i.e. pride was her undoing. Or are we supposed to admire her independence and willingness to speak the truth as she sees it? Or are we just supposed to be neutral, afforded a glimpse into the mind of someone who finds some strange comfort in being miserable and keeping others distant?
A supremely well-crafted book.