Carol Shields

Carol Shields was born and grew up in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. She was the third child of a sweet-factory manager and a schoolteacher.

After Hanover College, Indiana, she won a place on an exchange programme with Exeter University. There she found a more academic atmosphere, in which she thrived, and a Canadian engineering graduate student, whom she subsequently married.

Over the next ten years or so she moved around Canada with her husband, had five children, came back to England (Manchester) for three years, and wrote the occasional short story. Age twenty-nine, she wrote seven poems for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Young Writers’ Competition – and won. There followed a period of poetry writing, a master’s programme in English at the University of Ottawa, a thesis on Susanna Moodie, a 19th-century Canadian fiction writer and two books of poetry, Others and Intersect. The week she turned forty her first novel Small Ceremonies, was published, her thesis was accepted for publication, and she was about to leave for a year in France during her husband’s sabbatical. There she immediately started her second novel, The Box Garden.

She published two collections of short stories as well as six novels. Mary Swann was the first to be published in the UK in 1990, followed by Happenstance, which combined two earlier novels published separately, in 1991 and The Republic of Love in 1992. The Stone Diaries was published in August 1993, and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. It is now a bestselling paperback, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in April 1995. Various Miracles, a collection of short stories, was published to critical rapture in November 1994, and her first two novels, Small Ceremonies and The Box Garden, saw their first UK publication in February and June 1995 respectively.

In August 1997 her novel Larry’s Party was published by Fourth Estate, and went on to win the UK’s coveted Orange Prize for Women’s Fiction in May 1998. A new collection of short fiction, Dressing Up for the Carnival, was published in February 2000. Her last novel, Unless, was published in the UK in 2002 by Fourth Estate and went on to be shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize.

Carol Shields passed away in July 2003.

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