If one were to rate this book for its imaginative usages of stone-based imagery, metaphors, similes, and geography, this book would be clearly a five-star effort. If a reader is looking for an imaginative variety of writing styles all in one book, this is also a five-star effort, using wonderfully easy phrases. On the other hand, if you want to feel deeply connected to a story and its characters, this may not the book for you.
The book's format is a pseudo-biography of a Canadian woman told through a series of vignettes about her life. These start with her birth in 1905, continue with her childhood in 1916, describe her first marriage in 1927, falling in love at 31 in 1936, raising her children in 1947, pursuing a career as a gardening columnist from 1955-1964, experiencing a set-back in 1965, living into retirement in 1977, having health reversals in 1985, and eventually passing on. The book comes equipped with a family tree and family photographs to complete the biographical feel.
You can think of this book also like a series of short stories. In fact, many will enjoy the book more that way than as a fictionalized biography. For example, the birth is very compelling. The section about her writing career is quite amusing and fun to read as you follow through a series of letters.
As much as I loved the stone references, to me they turned the book into self-satire so much at times that it created too much emotional distance from the book. If the references had been cut back by about 60 percent, I think they would have been brilliant. As it was, I was looking for one such reference on every page (almost like Where's Waldo?) and would break out into giggles when I found the next one even if the material was supposed to be sad.
Toward the book's end, the references abated but the story still didn't move me. Perhaps it was just that the writer's craft was so well done that its sparkling jewels outshone the content of the story by too wide a margin. There was a similar gap between the story (often far-fetched well beyond kidding around) and the characters, with the story being more interesting than the characters. Even though you often get internal dialogue, the book remains like something that you are watching from a disinterested distance rather than living within and feeling connected to.
My great grandmother, Edith Foster, was a lot like Daisy, and also was born in rural, central Canada. She lived until I was about 19, and I well remember her stories about life on the plains of Canada and immigrating to the United States. The Stone Diaries, even with its exaggerated elements, seemed pale compared to the real challenges of those days . . . which this book often omits.
The best part of Daisy's development as a character is the evolution of her confusion of fact and fantasy. At several points, you will feel like you can no longer trust your own mind and have a good sense of what that situation must be like. Nicely done!
After you enjoy the aspects of The Stone Diaries that appeal to you, I suggest that you assemble a brief autobiography that you can share with your children and grandchildren. They will probably enjoy the kinds of details this book focuses on, because they will reflect on their own origins in compelling ways.
See the past and present clearly!