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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prose to delight, characters who live..., 17 April 2012
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This review is from: Duet (Kindle Edition)
This book (or two books), blew me away. It started slowly, with Judith and Martin and their two children, who have returned to Canada from a year in 'a cold, filthy flat in Birmingham' where Martin, a university professor spent a sabbatical year. Slowly we learn that Judith is a biographer, not, as yet, hugely successful. Martin seems worthy if a little unexciting, there is a teen-age daughter who is sparky and sensitive and a twelve-year old son, apparently enamoured in a pen friendship with the daughter of the Birmingham family who spent the father's sabbatical in Cyprus, and who he has never met.

You might not think that an exciting premise for a novel, but the prose gets under your skin. The family begins to matter. We are puzzled with Judith when she makes a strange discovery in Martin's desk, about which she forgets to ask and only remembers when he is not around. The strands of the story weave together; a friend, Furlong, a writer of fiction, at last achieves recognition with his latest book to the surprise of Martin and Judith, who both put off reading it, until the fateful day when Judith is shamed into the task and discovers the plot; two close unmarried friends decide to separate and the female half goes into hiding.

As Judith says, 'It's the arrangement of events which makes the stories. It's throwing away, compressing, underlining. Hindsight can give structure to anything, but you have to be able to see it. Breathing, waking and sleeping; our lives are steamed and shaped into stories...'

And later, 'For me dreams are no more than rag-ends caught in a sort of human lint-trap, psychic fluff, the negligible dust of that more precious material, thought.'

The second part of the duet is in her sister, Charleen's viewpoint, a poet and single mother. This is an equally fascinating story and the two sisters meet together when their mother announces the fact that she is getting married again, something that staggers the daughters, especially in view of the fact that the event follows quite quickly after a mastectomy. Their mother is difficult and has affected them both in quite different ways, but they come to understand and accept her in a satisfying denouement.

A memorable book that joins the other twenty or so that are in my 'best book' collection on my Kindle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duet by Carol Shields, 8 Nov. 2012
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This is another "must read" by Carol Shields. She has a real gift for making her characters recognizable and believable. She's especially good on teenagers. Duet is a pair of novels about two sisters and is especially good about comparing their points of view on their upbringing. As usual the author is warmhearted but penetrating about human weakness. Both the sisters are portrayed with clarity and it is fascinating to see how they have turned out so differently from the same parents: one is a biographer dealing in facts; the other a poet who conveys her experience of life through metaphor.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good but not her best, 23 Jan. 2014
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hypnotically readable as Shields always is, but these stories and characters didn't stay in my mind as those of her other books have done.
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Duet
Duet by Carol Shields (Paperback - 4 Aug. 2003)
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