Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The stone angel (Laurence) 251

"Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand...sumer and winter she viewed the town with sightless eyes. She was doubly blind, not only stone, but unendowed with even a pretence of sight" The stone angel sits on top of the grave of Regina Weese, now forgotten, a fate that seems like to beset the book's narrator.

The stone angel is the wonderful tale narrated by Hagar Shipley. An old lady, living with her son and daughter in law, who wish to put her into a home, she tells us about her life from childhood on the prairie, through marriage, to old age. The people important to Shipley are wonderfully evoked, making for a beautiful read. Astoundingly, although Hagar is 90, Laurence was only in her thirties when she wrote it, which is all the more impressive. I don't want to give too much away about the story, but it is so cleverly constructed, taking the reader between present, and past, and then into the future.

This book is the first book of a trilogy; the remaining titlesJest of God and the Fire-dwellers are also published by Virago, as is another one of her novels. I will be intrigued to read the rest of the trilogy, since apparently the second book has been filmed (and it seems unusual to film the second of three...). Published twice by Virago, my copy has the more recent cover.


  1. This is a particular favourite of mine: I'm glad you enjoyed it too! Her books are linked by their setting (Manawaka) rather than a series per se; her story collection, A Bird in the House, is actually linked in this way as well.

    I believe Jest of God and The Diviners were both filmed some years ago, but The Stone Angel was just filmed in 2007. There are also a couple of fine audio versions (one dramatized).

    With all this media to choose from, I'm still opting for an old-fashioned re-read later this year.

  2. BIP - I have just realised that the link is the setting. I didn't know about the Stone Angel film - I'd certainly like to see how they tackle it. And I'm looking forward to reading the rest of her books.

  3. Ack! Just returned this book to the library unread (time ran out)... looks like I'll have to check it out again.

  4. So far I have read The Stone Angel and Jest of God. I liked both, but really liked Jest of God. Very different from each other, but you will love the second. I have The Diviners in the TBR. I may have to bump it up a bit.

  5. JoAnn - Oh no! Go and get it out again!!

    Thomas - I did LOVE Jest of God - review forthcoming. I have The diviners in my TBR too - must read that this week or next...