Carol Shields

The dazzling novel from Carol Shields, author of ‘The Stone Diaries’, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and ‘Larry’s Party’, winner of the Orange Prize.

All her life, it seems to Reta Winters, she has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness. She has a loving husband, three bright daughters and supportive friends, and is experiencing growing success as a writer and translator. Then her eldest daughter suddenly withdraws from the world, abandoning university, family and loving boyfriend to sit on a street corner, uncommunicative but for a sign around her neck bearing one word, ‘Goodness’. The anguish of her loss leads Reta into a desperate search for the causes of her daughter’s retreat. No obvious explanation appears to fit. As Reta casts her net ever wider her enquiry turns into an unflinching, often very funny examination of our society and the reasons a young woman might conclude it has no place for her.

Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in this journey through the life of an unforgettable woman. Shields’ remarkably supple prose yields insights and images of transcendent beauty and acuity from the stuff of small-town life. At once the discomfiting, ultimately consoling story of one family’s loss and a searing portrait of life at the dawn of the 21st-century, ‘Unless’ is a dazzling and daring novel from the undisputed master of extraordinary fictions about so-called ‘ordinary’ lives.

Reviews of Unless

    • Praise for Carol Shields:
    • ‘Her perceptions are so quick, her style is so acute, that she can tack a breath to the page and skewer a thought on the wing. It is her speciality to isolate moments that remain distinct in the mind for years, perhaps for a lifetime.’ Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times
    • ‘Few writers could make a book about what it means to be alone this charming.’ Observer
    • ‘A wonderful, powerful book, written in a style which combines simplicity and elegance. Deeply moving.’ Joanne Harris
    • ‘Shields writes like an angel, awesome in the intelligence of her observations and never less than elegant in expressing them.’ David Robson, Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘It takes the vessel of fiction in its hands and hurls it to the floor…a masterpiece.’ Rachel Cusk, New Statesman
    • ‘As poised and wise a novel as any you will read this year.’ Tim Adams, Observer
    • ‘Our most intelligent and beguiling observer…“Unless” is her most raw and intentful novel yet.’ Penny Perrick, Sunday Times