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Happenstance: The Husband's Story - The Wife's Story [Paperback]

Carol Shields
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 April 1994

'The beautiful irony of Happenstance is that its novels are both bound together and held apart by the strength of the marriage they describe.' Rupert Christiansen, Harpers and Queen

These companion novels – by turns touching, compassionate and humorous – tell the stories of Jack and Brenda Bowman. In all the years of their marriage they have hardly ever been apart.
In THE WIFE'S STORY, Brenda, now forty years old, and who has been surprised to discover a source of creative energy, is about to spend a week away from their home in a Chicago suburb to attend a craft convention in Philadelphia. It is her first trip alone. Removed from her familiar environment, all the gathering emotions that have unsettled her life over the last few years are focussed and bring her to a crisis. Brenda is vulnerable in a strange city. She is also ready to grasp whatever experiences come her way.
In THE HUSBAND'S STORY, back in Chicago, Jack faces his own crisis. It is the first time he has been left to cope on his own. He is immobilised by self-doubt, beginning to question his worth and the value of his work as a historian. Suddenly, in that one week, his world falls apart. He has to deal with an attempted suicide, a marital breakdown and, not least, their two difficult children. In the process, he manages to work out his feelings and to learn something about himself.



Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (11 April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586092242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586092248
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 512,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

THE WIFE'S STORY

'Happenstance' takes the form of two companion novels, each telling the story of the same five days in the lives of Jack and Brenda Bowman. In twenty years of marriage they have hardly ever been apart, then Brenda is invited, on the strength of her newly discovered talent as a quiltmaker, to spend a week at a craft convention. It is her first trip away from her Chicago home and, removed from familiar routines and surroundings, she feels both vulnerable and adventurous. Making new friends, fending off the amorous advances of a handsome metallurgist, and coming to terms with her celebrity status as a prizewinning craftswoman, Brenda feels things are changing fast. As the week progresses all the gathering emotions which have unsettled her life over the last few years – the sudden and inexplicable attacks of sadness and anger, the feelings of insecurity – are brought into focus.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Jack faces a crisis of a very different sort…

Carol Shields was born and raised in Chicago and has lived in Canada since 1957. She studied at Hanover College and the University of Ottawa. Author of six novels, including 'The Republic of Love,'which was shortlisted for the 1992 'Guardian' Fiction Prize, and 'The Stone Diaries', which was shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize, Carol Shields has also written three volumes of poetry and numerous short stories. She now lives in Winnipeg and spends each summer in France.

From the reviews of 'Happenstance:'

"With dazzling detfness Shields demonstrates the alienation innate in the most loving relationships… 'Happenstance' is a remarkable, perceptive and painfully accurate work that yields more with each reading."
SUNDAY TIMES

"The beautiful irony of 'Happenstance' is that its novels are both bound together and held apart by the strength of the marriage they describe."
HARPERS & QUEEN

"Working with energetic brio, Shields organises dazzling contrasts of hilariousness and subtlety, high comedy and sombre complexity… she has constructed her work with the authentic independence of an important writer."
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

"Carol Shields is a lucid and accessible writer. Her virtues are an instinct for the patterns of everyday speech, a willingness to ferret out psychological nuances and a gift for investing her characters with the appearance of a living, breathing reality."
GUARDIAN

THE HUSBAND'S STORY

'Happenstance' takes the form of two companion novels, each telling the story of the same five days in the lives of Jack and Brenda Bowman. In twenty years of marriage they have hardly ever been apart, then Brenda is invited, on the strength of her newly discovered talent as a quiltmaker, to spend a week at a craft convention. Jack, an unworldly, self-doubting historian, is left alone in their Chicago home to cope with their two awkward adolescent children. In the space of one extraordinary, turbulent week, Jack's world falls apart. Disturbing events hasten one upon the other – a neighbour attempts suicide, a friend's marriage breaks down, Jack's lascivious secretary suddenly starts making bizarre sexual confessions and, last but not least, Jack discovers to his horror that his major career project (an unfinished book on Native American society) is jeopardised by an identical volume written by his ex-lover.

Meanwhile, Brenda seems to be having the time of her life…

From the review of 'Happenstance':

"Carol Shields is an acute recorder of contemporary mores, the detail of her observations flawless. 'Happenstance' resounds with a humanity and a generosity that is truly memorable."
DAILY TELEGRAPH

"I highly recommend 'Happenstance'. Both stories are funny – but compassionately so. Crucially, Carol Shields allows all the characters dignity. This is a tender, lovely book, about people who need each other. It is also superbly told."
MARIE CLAIRE

"The biggest pleasure remains Shields' prose, at once dense and delicate. Her great strength is her ability to capture small moments and make them important…Shields displays in her careful delineation of her characters a tenderness for the ordinary which shines through the sheer cleverness of her work."
LITERARY REVIEW

"A celebration of marriage as historical accident, 'Happenstance' makes a delightful portrait of partnership, full of quirky humour."
THE TIMES


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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In Happenstance, the book is literally in two separate parts: in one half the wife tells her story and you flip over the book and the other half covers the same period of time as recounted by the husband. I have read all of Carol Shields' books (short stories and novels), and this, I think, is my all time favourite. Carol Shields' greatest achievement is managing - in all her books - to make ordinary people who lead seemingly ordinary existences so fascinating.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good aeroplane read 7 July 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I read the woman's section first, and I thought that was going to be much more sympathetic. But then I read the man's section, and found that my sympathies had been reversed. It's a medium-good book, enjoyable, but in the end a bit slight.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, dull execution 20 Dec 2000
Format:Paperback
2 sides the same story in a week of a married couples life - great idea but the heroine Brenda just made me want to commit suicide !
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