This is one of those novels where the first person voice draws you in immediately I am rampant with memory, Hagar says, and as the book proceeds she keeps lapsing back, seemingly involuntarily, into her past While in a doctor s waiting room or in the derelict house by the coast where she runs away to escape the threat of the nursing home, she loses the drift of the present and in her growing confusion relives episodes from earlier life.
Many of these are melancholy her mother s early death and her difficult relationship with her father, an arrogant, self made shopkeeper Both of us were blunt as bludgeons We hadn t a scrap of subtlety between us her volatile marriage to Bram, a common fellow considered unworthy of her Twenty four years, in all, were scoured away like sand banks under the spate of our wrangle and bicker and the untimely deaths of both a brother and a son.
The Stone Angel of the title is the monument on Hagar s mother s grave, but it is also an almost oxymoronic description for our protagonist herself The night my son died I was transformed to stone and never wept at all, she remembers Hagar is harsh tongued and bitter, always looking for someone or something to blame Yet she recognizes these tendencies in herself and sometimes overcomes her stubbornness enough to backtrack and apologize What wisdom she has is hard won through suffering, but she s still standing She s a holy terror, son Marvin describes her later in the novel another paradox.
originally from 1964, The Stone Angel was reprinted in the UK in September as part of the Apollo Classics series It s the first in Laurence s Manawaka sequence of five novels, set in a fictional town based on her hometown in Manitoba, Canada It could be argued that this novel paved the way for any number of recent books narrated by or about the elderly and telling of their surprise late life adventures everything from Jonas Jonasson s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared to Emma Hooper s Etta and Otto and Russell and James I was also reminded of Jane Smiley s Midwest novels, and wondered if Carol Shields s The Stone Diaries was possibly intended as an homage.
I loved spending time in Hagar s company, whether she s marveling at how age has crept up on her I feel that if I were to walk carefully up to my room, approach the mirror softly, take it by surprise, I would see there again that Hagar with the shining hair, the dark maned colt off to the training ringtrying to picture life going on without her Hard to imagine a world and I not in it Will everything stop when I do Stupid old baggage, who do you think you are Hagar There s no one like me in this world.
or simply describing a spring day The poplar bluffs had budded with sticky leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening like shavings of sun on the brown river where the tadpoles danced and the blood suckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys feet.
It was a delight to experience this classic of Canadian literature The Apollo imprint will be publishing the second Manawaka book, A Jest of God, in March With thanks to Blake Brooks at Head of Zeus Apollo for the free copy for review.
originally published with images on my blog, Bookish Beck.
This is one of the best books I have ever read I don t give 5 stars unless I truly believe that is what it is worth, and Stone Angel is worth the five and , in my opinion.
Hagar Shipley is a character you will never forget stubborn, ornery, proud, locked in her own version of her world and unwilling to see it any other way until her dying breath.
The novel opens with a quote from one of the best poems ever written Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light Hagar has raged through her whole life and does not intend on going out of it softly or quietly.
This book can affect you on so many levels that it is hard to categorize It s about being a women in a very non feminist world that is still relatable today It is about being a parent and a child It is about the mistakes both make It is about old age and the rage against personal introspection It is about love and forgiveness It is about letting go both literally and figuratively.
Laurence has created a character who insists on being unforgettable.
The Stone Angel Is The Portrait Of A Proud, Energetic And Impulsive Woman Hagar Shipley As Seen Through Her Own Eyes At The Age Of Ninety Her Reflections On Her Past Form A Vividly Etched Chronicle Of A Girlhood Shaped And Dominated By Her Father Of A Breakaway Marriage To A Virile But Negligent Farmer Of Her Complex Ties To Two Sons The Conventional Marvin, And The Flamboyant, Adored John, Whom She Eventually Destroys Hagar In Widowhood Is Still Fiercely Responsible, Still Ard By Her Steely Humor, Still Isolated By Her Life Long Habits Of Pride And Self Reliance But She Does Not Remain Untouched In Hagar S Ultimate Self Confrontation, Her Final Reckoning Of The Wages Of Love, Margaret Laurence Has Created One Of Contemporary Literature S Most Stunning Images Of A Woman S FateE STONE ANGEL Is The First Part Of The Acclaimed Manawaka Series Which Also Includes A Jest Of God, The Fire Dwellers, A Bird In The House, And The Diviners And someday I would like to write a novel about an old woman Old age is something which interests me and the myriad ways people meet it, some pretending it doesn t exist, some terrified by every physical deterioration because that final appointment is something they cannot face.
Margaret Laurence 17 March 1957 letter written by ML to Adele Wiseman First published in 1964, Canadian author, Margaret Laurence often confused with Canada s other book writing Margaret tells the tale of 90 year old Hagar Shipley who in the last days of her life reflects back on a lifetime of memories Unlike a lot of Canadians, my grade 11 English teacher decided not to read The Stone Angel with us and instead gave old Richler a spin Since I have never read him after that and it took me years to attempt an Atwood the other Margaret novel after reeling from a horrible essay we were forced to read in that class It s probably a saving grace that I waited until I had witnessed the aging and death of three of my grandparents before experiencing this story Because yes, as a teen I don t think I would have appreciated the curmudgeonly Hagar Having witnessed my paternal grandmother s descent into dementia, the determination of my father and his siblings to keep their mother in her own home as long as possible, the long term stay in the hospital and then the nursing home Well, that experience certainly helps me empathise with Hagar s son, Marvin and daughter in law, Doris But as a teen,when I still had active paternal grandparents who hadn t yet lost a child a tragic death which aged them overnight , I don t think I would have quite enjoyed this bleak story very much All in all, I would certainly recommend to readers, but think I wouldn t really choose it as classroom novel.
I hated this book I called it the Stoned Angel because I think it would have been better if I were stoned on drugs at the time as I told my teacher at the time of reading this book There have been women who have gone through far worse who aren t such b tches I could not relate to the character yes, she had a hard life, but its hard to sympathize with her when she is making everyone around her s life just as miserable Horrible boring read Yes, its a Canadian classic, but what does that say about Canadian literature 3.
5 The question I have is Would I have read and enjoyed The Stone Angel if it had not been considered a Canadian classic and if a RL friend of mine did not highly recommend it Well, I have read it, and I can see why it is considered a classic There is so much symbolism in this book, you can draw classroom material for years from it And of course, it is always nice to read a story with a strong female lead and you hardly get any stronger female leads than Hagar Tho, of course, one could argue that strong and obnoxious are not the same, and that Hagar s pride and stubbornness are of a weakness than a strength.
But was the book enjoyable I can t say I loved it For all it s metaphorical word play and stoicism and irony Hagar was pretty unlikeable, the characters around her were not that likable either, but I did admire the sass and gumption that the characters brought up in dealing with each other.
I ll probably give Laurence s other books in this cycle a miss, tho.
Mr Troy has chosen a bad day to call The rib pain is not so intrusive this afternoon, but my belly growls and snarls like a separate beast My bowels are locked today I am Job in reverse, and neither cascara nor syrup of figs nor milk of magnesia will prevail against my unspeakable affliction I sit uncomfortably I am bloated, full, weighted down, and I fear I may pass wind.
I remember my mother telling me, with great delight, that my younger brother was reading The Stone Angel in high school and that he was disgusted by all of the references to the old woman s bowels I suppose I joined in on the laugh at the time, since it was always good fun in our home to laugh at the things that made my humourless little brother uncomfortable I know I didn t study this book in school, and although I thought I had read it before now, the only thing that stuck out in my memory as I devoured it this time is poor old Hagar s bowels And this time, I am left feeling protective of the old woman, insisting that she not be an object of disgust or pity or ridicule.
This book is remarkable, not least of all because the main character is just so unlikeable Ruled by pride passed down from her Scotsman father, Hagar Currie Shipley withholds the little kindnesses throughout her life that could have smoothed the way both for herself and for the family that she keeps at arm s length, leading to disasters of varying degrees At the end of her life, she realises too late what this pride had wroughtPride was my wilderness and the demon that lead me there was fear.
After a visiting pastor sings the old hymn that Hagar has impulsively perhaps mischievously asked of him, she has a further insight As he sings of rejoicing, Hagar is overwhelmed with tears and thinksI would have wished it This knowing comes upon me so forcefully, so shatteringly, and with such a bitterness as I have never felt before I must always, always, have wanted that simply to rejoice How is it I never could I know, I know How long have I known Or have I always known, in some far crevice of my heart, some cave too deeply buried, too concealed Every good joy I might have held, in my man or any child of mine or even in the plain light of morning, of walking the earth, all were forced to a standstill by some break of proper appearances oh, proper to whom When did I ever speak my heart s truthEven so, this is not a redemptive deathbed epiphany Hagar is not remorseful about the kind words that she has withheld, but full of regrets that she had not allowed herself to feel joy.
This book is also remarkable for the gorgeous prose, and though it was written in 1964, it feels fresh and modern A favourite passage, while Hagar is on the lamIf I cry out, who will hear me Unless there is another in this house, no one Some gill netter passing the point might catch an echo, perhaps, and wonder if he d imagined it or if it could be the plaintive voices of the drowned, calling through brown kelp that s stopped their mouths, in the deep and barnacled places where their green hair ripples out and snags on the green deep rocks Now I could fancy myself there among them, tiaraed with starfish thorny and purple, braceleted with shells linked on limp chains of weed, waiting until my encumbrance of flesh floated clean away and I was free and skeletal and could journey with tides and fishes.
It beckons a second only Then I m scared out of my wits, nearly Stupid old woman, Hagar, baggage, bulk, chambered nautilus are you Shut up.
In Survival A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Margaret Atwood quotes the following as the moment that Hagar transcends the CanLit tradition of characters as victims I lie here and try to recall something truly free that I ve done in ninety years I can think of only two acts that might be so, both recent One was a joke yet a joke only as all victories are, the paraphernalia being unequal to the event s reach The other was a lie yet not a lie, for it was spoken at least and at last with what may perhaps be a kind of love.
I found it interesting that what appear to be acts of freewill in the novel view spoiler marrying Bram and then leaving him or running away to Shadow Point hide spoiler
Like fine wine, there is literature that needs an acquired taste to be fully appreciated This is one of those books The story is as simple as a red table wine, but the intricacies of the writing set it in a class of its own This is a story that has been done time and again an aged and unreliable narrator recalling their life 90 year old Hagar claims to never have been happy and dislikes most everyone she s known in her life She will not accede to leaving her own home, in which she is lives with her docile son Marvin and his wife Doris who bears the brunt of caring for Hagar, for a care facility and does not recognize how much less independent she has become She has dementia and struggles with her short term memory but is able to recall and tell her past She is far from likeable, yet after a short struggle acclimating myself to Laurence s writing, I became fully engaged in the book.
So much is done well here Laurence has a marvelous sense of word choice that makes all the scenes visual and all the characters knowable Sentence structure is generally short and her language is usually common I think in today s world, Hagar would be what is known as goth It was spring that day, a different spring from this one The poplar bluffs were budded with sticky leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang like choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening like shavings of sun and the brown river where the tadpoles danced and the bloodsuckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys feet And I rode in the black topped buggy beside the man who was now my mare Lottie was podgy as a puffball She looked as though she d either burst or bounce if you tapped her The Dreisers always ran to fat I didn t remember her mother very well, who d died so conveniently young with a bare left hand, but the dressmaker aunt who reared Lottie used to waddle like a goose force fed for Christmas Oh, she is cutting And even when she feels gratitude or pleasure she is unable to express it to others One must note that her mother died young and she had little in the way of affectionate role modeling from her father She marries one man to escape another, but accepts that as her choice She bears two sons She does go off in search of a life of her own, but returns during his final days at a loss to explain why she is really there In that house of her marriage, she lives on to this final chapter in her life This chapter in which dementia takes hold This is a marvelous study of character, one of which may or may not be who she once was, but one who stubbornly hangs on to herself to the very, very end.
Old age ain t no place for sissies Bette DavisMy mother died 27 years ago She was in her mid eighties Unlike Hagar Currie Shipley, her mind was still sharp but her body was failing her in every possible way She had diabetes and congestive heart failure but, she ultimately died of liver disease from a tainted blood transfusion.
I thought of my mom so much while reading this wonderful novel Mother bore her many physical afflictions with grace and also a deep gratitude for her family s support until the end Still, like Hagar Shipley, she was petrified of being placed in a nursing home which never happened This novel moves back and forth in time, tracing the life of Hagar Shipley, born Hagar Currie in the Canadian prairie town of Manawaka Hagar is a crotchety 90 year old currently living with her son, Marvin, and daughter in law, Doris As she faces the end of her life, she reflects with some regret upon her relationships with her father, brothers, husband and sons Although she could be judgmental, stubborn and prideful, her hardscrabble life on the prairie was a gut wrenching tale at times I never for once pitied Hagar But, I came to understand the source of her bitterness by the story s end When her son and daughter in law suggest a move to a nursing home for her well being and their convenience Hagar rebels I couldn t help but feel sympathy for her and admiration for her moxie in old age As ornery as she was, her private thoughts about her daughter in law made me laugh out loud.
This is a beautifully written and poignant story about the emotional complexities of ageing and losing one s independence Highly recommended
The course I followed is that of a well bred lady marrying a crass widower angering her Dad She is no shrinking violet, trapped or bossed around We enjoyHagar Currie Shipley sgumption keeping a situation calm, or snapping back In the early 1900s, here is a woman not steered by wagging tongues For several chapters a compelling heroine, exquisite literary mettle, and Manitoba nature drive interestManawakais code forNeepawa , my fianc s hometown and we laughed together atGalloping MountainIt obviously doubled forRiding MountainA shift occurred by the time Hagar takes her youngest son to a city Not only do the memoirs reach their peak The page time of the elderly storyteller outweighs it The 95 year old version of our narrator is undeniably riveting.
As present day Hagar dominates, sympathy skyrockets We are outraged her daughter in lawDoris , misreads Hagar s competency so flimsily We become champions against underestimating the elderly Then an astonishing, fast paced adventure takes place, that rises to a fever pitch This local classic, of which I ve been proud at arm s length, became a novel I lapped up in two days I m awe stricken by an author capable of weaving two vividly memorable threads, that culminate in the sharpest understanding It s a loss that Margaret killed herself upon a diagnosis of terminal cancer.