Stone Angel

ISBN-10: 0226469360
ISBN-13: 9780226469362
Edition: N/A
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Description: The Stone Angel, The Diviners, and A Bird in the House are three of the five books in Margaret Laurence's renowned "Manawaka series," named for the small Canadian prairie town in which they take place. Each of these books is narrated by a strong  More...

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Book details

List price: $17.00
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 6/15/1993
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 318
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.836
Language: English

The Stone Angel, The Diviners, and A Bird in the House are three of the five books in Margaret Laurence's renowned "Manawaka series," named for the small Canadian prairie town in which they take place. Each of these books is narrated by a strong woman growing up in the town and struggling with physical and emotional isolation. In The Stone Angel, Hagar Shipley, age ninety, tells the story of her life, and in doing so tries to come to terms with how the very qualities which sustained her have deprived her of joy. Mingling past and present, she maintains pride in the face of senility, while recalling the life she led as a rebellious young bride, and later as a grieving mother. Laurence gives us in Hagar a woman who is funny, infuriating, and heartbreakingly poignant. "This is a revelation, not impersonation. The effect of such skilled use of language is to lead the reader towards the self-recognition that Hagar misses."--Robertson Davies, New York Times "It is [Laurence's] admirable achievement to strike, with an equally sure touch, the peculiar note and the universal; she gives us a portrait of a remarkable character and at the same time the picture of old age itself, with the pain, the weariness, the terror, the impotent angers and physical mishaps, the realization that others are waiting and wishing for an end."--Honor Tracy, The New Republic "Miss Laurence is the best fiction writer in the Dominion and one of the best in the hemisphere."--Atlantic "[Laurence] demonstrates in The Stone Angel that she has a true novelist's gift for catching a character in mid-passion and life at full flood. . . . As [Hagar Shipley] daydreams and chatters and lurches through the novel, she traces one of the most convincing--and the most touching--portraits of an unregenerate sinner declining into senility since Sara Monday went to her reward in Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth."--Time "Laurence's triumph is in her evocation of Hagar at ninety. . . . We sympathize with her in her resistance to being moved to a nursing home, in her preposterous flight, in her impatience in the hospital. Battered, depleted, suffering, she rages with her last breath against the dying of the light. The Stone Angel is a fine novel, admirably written and sustained by unfailing insight."--Granville Hicks, Saturday Review "The Stone Angel is a good book because Mrs. Laurence avoids sentimentality and condescension; Hagar Shipley is still passionately involved in the puzzle of her own nature. . . . Laurence's imaginative tact is strikingly at work, for surely this is what it feels like to be old."--Paul Pickrel, Harper's

Canadian author Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss in Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada, on July 18, 1926. She attended United College (now the University of Winnipeg), receiving her B.A. in 1947. Shortly after graduation, she married Jack Laurence, a hydraulic engineer whose job would often take them overseas; the Laurences lived in England for a year, moved to British Somaliland in 1950, and then to Ghana in 1952. It was in Africa that Laurence wrote her first book, A Tree for Poverty, which was a translation of Somali poetry and stories. She also wrote about her experiences in Somaliland in a travel memoir, The Prophet's Camel Bell, and used Africa as a setting for her first fictional work, a novel called This Side Jordan, and a collection of short stories, The Tomorrow Tamers. This Side Jordan received the 1961 Beta Sigma Phi Award for the best first novel by a Canadian. Laurence is best known, however, for her Manawaka books, which are set in Canada. They include The Stone Angel, The Fire Dwellers House, A Bird in the House, A Jest of God, and The Diviners. The latter two books both received the Governor General's Award, in 1967 and 1975, respectively. After living in Africa, England, and several other countries for many years, Laurence returned to Canada in 1974, settling in Lakefield, Ontario, where she remained until her death in 1987. The Energy Probe Research Foundation, an environmental organization for which she served as one of the directors, now sponsors the Margaret Laurence Fund for projects related to the environment and peace, areas in which Laurence was very active during the last decade of her life.

Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand. I wonder if she stands there yet, in memory of her who relinquished her feeble ghost as I gained my stubborn one, my mother's angel that my father bought in pride to mark her bones and proclaim his dynasty, as he fancied, forever and a day.
Summer and winter she viewed the town with sightless eyes. She was doubly blind, not only stone but unendowed with even a pretense of sight. Whoever carved her had left the eyeballs blank. It seemed strange to me that she should stand above the town, harking us all to heaven without knowing who we were at all. But I was too young then to know her purpose, although my father often told me she had been brought from Italy at a terrible expense and was pure white marble. I think now she must have been carved in that distant sun by stone masons who were the cynical descendants of Bernini, gouging out her like by the score, gauging with admirable accuracy the needs of fledgling pharaohs in an uncouth land.
Her wings in winter were pitted by the snow and in summer by the blown grit. She was not the only angel in the Manawaka cemetery, but she was the first, the largest, and certainly the costliest. The others, as I recall, were a lesser breed entirely, petty angels, cherubim with pouting stone mouths, one holding aloft a stone heart, another strumming in eternal silence upon a small stone stringless harp, and yet another pointing with ecstatic leer to an inscription. I remember that inscription because we used to laugh at it when the stone was first placed there. Rest in peace. From toil, surcease. Regina Weese. 1886 So much for sad Regina, now forgotten in Manawaka - as I, Hagar, am doubtless forgotten. And yet I always felt she had only herself to blame, for she was a flimsy, gutless creature, bland as egg custard, caring with martyred devotion for an ungrateful fox-voiced mother year in and year out. When Regina died, from some obscure and maidenly disorder, the old disreputable lady rose from sick-smelling sheets and lived, to the despair of her married sons, another full ten years. No need to say God rest her soul, for she must be laughing spitefully in hell, while virginal Regina sighs in heaven.
In summer the cemetery was rich and thick as syrup with the funeral-parlor perfume of the planted peonies, dark crimson and wallpaper pink, the pompous blossoms hanging leadenly, too heavy for their light stems, bowed down with the weight of themselves and the weight of the rain, infested with upstart ants that sauntered through the plush petals as though to the manner born.
I used to walk there often when I was a girl. There could not have been many places to walk primly in those days, on paths, where white kid boots and dangling skirts would not be torn by thistles or put in unseemly disarray. How anxious I was to be neat and orderly, imagining life had been created only to celebrate tidiness, like prissy Pippa as she passed. But sometimes through the hot rush of disrespectful wind that shook the scrub oak and the coarse couchgrass encroaching upon the dutifully cared-for habitations of the dead, the scent of the cowslips would rise momentarily. They were tough-rooted, these wild and gaudy flowers, and although they were held back at the cemetery's edge, torn out by loving relatives determined to keep the plots clear and clearly civilized, for a second or two a person walking there could catch the faint, musky, dusttinged smell of things that grew untended and had grown always, before the portly peonies and the angels with rigid wings, when the prairie bluffs were walked through only by Cree with enigmatic faces and greasy hair.
Now I am rampant with memory. I don't often indulge in this, or not so very often, anyway. Some people will tell you that the old live in the past - that's nonsense. Each day, so worthless really, has a rarity for me lately. I could put it in a vase and admire it, like the first dandelions, and we would forget their weediness and marvel that they were there at all. But one dissembles, usually, for the sake of such people as Marvin, who is somehow comforted by the picture of old ladies feeding like docile rabbits on the lettuce leaves of other times, other manners. How unfair I am. Well, why not? To carp like this - it's my only enjoyment, that and the cigarettes, a habit I acquired only ten years ago, out of boredom. Marvin thinks it disgraceful of me to smoke, at my age, ninety. To him there is something distressing in the sight of Hagar Shipley, who by some mischance happens to be his mother, with a little white burning tube held saucily between arthritic fingers. Now I light one of my cigarettes and stump around my room, remembering furiously, for no reason except that I am caught up in it. I must be careful not to speak aloud, though, for if I do Marvin will look at Doris and Doris will look meaningfully back at Marvin, and one of them will say, "Mother's having one of her days." Let them talk. What do I care now what people say? I cared too long.
Oh, my lost men. No, I will not think of that. What a disgrace to be seen crying by that fat Doris. The door of my room has no lock. They say it is because I might get taken ill in the night, and then how could they get in to tend me ( tend - as though I were a crop, a cash crop). So they may enter my room any time they choose. Privacy is a privilege not granted to the aged or the young. Sometimes very young children can look at the old, and a look passes between them, conspiratorial, sly and knowing. It's because neither are human to the middling ones, those in their prime, as they say, like beef.

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