Collected Stories

In Collected Stories, readers can enjoy all of Carol Shields' remarkable short story collections - Various Miracles (1985), The Orange Fish (1989) and Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000) - in one volume along with her last, previously unpublished, story, "Segue".

In these stories she combines the dazzling virtuosity and wise maturity that won so many readers to her prize-winning novels. Playful, charming, acutely observed and generous of spirit, this collection of 56 stories will delight and enchant readers.

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Carol Shields's short stories have given me happiness, not just pleasure. They're prismatic; they delight at first by the clear and simple elegance with which they are made, then there is something so bountiful and surprising, like beautiful broken lights."
- Alice Munro

Segue is, as one would expect, a masterful and engaging piece of writing, and happily it works almost as well as a short story as it would have had circumstances permitted it to be the beginning of a longer, finished project…. With the arrival on the shelves of this handsomely designed and important collection, we her readers can experience once again the privilege of stepping into Carol Shields's brilliantly rendered, many-faceted world with all its dramatic contrasts of private light and darkness."
- The Globe and Mail

Playful, charming, acutely observed and generous of spirit, this collection of stories will delight and enchant Carol Shields fans everywhere."

Collected Stories of Carol Shields reviewed by Clara Thomas
Books in Canada

Carol Shields's Collected Stories was published, with the cooperation of her family, one year after her death. "Segue", a chapter from the novel she was working on when she died, is included along with the complete collections, Various Miracles, The Orange Fish and Dressing up for the Carnival. Her daughters Anne and Sara were actively engaged in the book's preparation and made themselves available for interviews. The finished work is a handsome collection, her family's memorial to the writer whose remarkably diverse talents leave us a shining legacy. New readers as well as long-devoted readers will be captivated by its largesse: we expect from Shields a large generosity, a questing intelligence, an acute wit, an eye for the deceptively ordinary and above all a constant word-enchantment; in these pages we will not be disappointed. ...

A radiant gift, a brilliant archive."
-Winnipeg Free Press

Every story in this collection is a small, glittering masterpiece."
- National Post

Home Truths
Collected Stories of Carol Shields
reviewed by Laura Ciolkowski
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page BW07

Virginia Woolf knew how things would be for a writer like the late Carol Shields, a housewife and mother of five who published her first novel in 1976 at the age of 40, and performed the miraculous magic trick of writing fiction from within the elusive open spaces of her harried and overflowing domestic world. In a literary climate in which the minutiae of daily life are too frequently seen as a distraction rather than as the raw material for fiction, a so-called miniaturist like Shields, Woolf understood, would be written off as a lightweight, mired in the trivialities that great writers ostensibly must overcome. Woolf mocked the high-Victorian arbiters of taste and the stuffy, patriarchal style-makers of her time: "This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battlefield is more important than a scene in a shop -- everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists."

Like Jane Austen, a master chronicler of the depth and psychological weightiness of the apparently ordinary world of women (and the subject of Shields's prizewinning 2001 biography in the Penguin Lives series), Shields was not able to dodge charges of a lack of literary seriousness in her work, in spite of her impressive collection of honors and prizes, including a Pulitzer, a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Orange Prize for fiction. The critics "said that I wrote 'women's books,' 'domestic novels,' as if that were a lesser thing," she confessed in an interview conducted just three years before her death from cancer in July 2003. "But I knew then as I know now that the lives of women are serious and interesting." ...

No writer in the English-speaking world has written more eloquent, witty and graceful sentences than Carol Shields…. If the purpose of fiction is to break up the frozen seas within us, as Kafka once said, spending a few days in the company of Shields' stories allowed me to re-experience the poignancy of human life and, at the same time, its undeniable comedy, its sensuality and beauty."
- Susan Swan in National Post

A grand gift for a true Shields fan."
- Toronto Star

Intelligent, provocative and entertaining."
- The New York Review of Books

'Collected Stories' : Woman on the Edge
Collected Stories of Carol Shields reviewed by Ann Hulbert
New York Times
February 6, 2005

"Canadian women are on the edge of the edge -- this has to give edge to voices.'' In the spring of 2002, a year before she died of breast cancer, that was how Carol Shields celebrated the bracing literary company she kept in her adopted country. For male writers up north, she observed, there was no ''haunting of the big cats: Hawthorne, Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway'' (whose birthplace was her own hometown, Oak Park, Ill.). For Shields, surprised by the Pulitzer Prize for ''The Stone Diaries,'' there was an invigorating sisterhood. In Alice Munro, whose praise adorns the back cover of this fat volume, and Margaret Atwood, who contributed the introduction, she found birds of a feather. All born in the 1930's, they took flight at their own pace, which for Shields meant taking her time.

She was 40 in 1976 when her first novel appeared, a housewife with five children and an engineer husband whom she had married right out of college. Over the next 16 years, she produced six novels and two of the three collections of stories -- ''Various Miracles'' and ''Orange Fish'' -- in this omnibus edition; the third, ''Dressing Up for the Carnival,'' appeared in 2000. Her trademark characters, kindly but confused souls making their way in a land of ''people sugaring off and drinking tea and casting for trout and nodding amicably,'' won Shields a largely Canadian following. She also earned a kindly reputation herself as a warm-hearted writer from Winnipeg with a fondness for happy endings. ...

Carol Shield’s short stories are full of sentences you could almost sing...[her] sentences transmute base metal into gold.”
- Independent

Reading beyond the fridge magnets:
Carol Shields short stories show depths some critics overlooked, says Hermione Lee

Collected Stories of Carol Shields reviewed by Hermione Lee
The Guardian
July 3, 2004

In the last years of her life, Carol Shields went on working. She published a remarkable novel, Unless, a volume of stories, and a short, sympathetic life of Jane Austen. The biography dealt feelingly with the frustrations, deprivations and solitude of a great woman writer with no literary confidantes and a restrictive family life. The novel gave the story of a woman writer of light novels, whose daughter had run away from home to adopt an extremist life of "goodness" - either of madness or sainthood. The novelist, Reta Winters, was writing angry, unsent letters about the exclusion and powerlessness of women. Reta had already made an appearance in one of the late stories, "A Scarf", in which she says, of herself and other women writers, "Not one of us was going to get what we wanted." The same phrase recurs in Unless.

These late themes forcibly suggested that the tendency to celebrate Shields as a benign, tender, mild observer of ordinary, minor lives has not made for a perfect fit. There is a good deal of fury and resentment in her work, and she can be sharp and bitter. ("In his late forties he fell in love with another woman. Was she younger than his wife? Yes, of course she was younger.") She was a late-20th-century feminist who saw that women (including women writers) are still being patronised and minoritised all over the place. The very everydayness and ordinariness she was so praised for attending to was also what allowed her to be somewhat condescended to, in spite of the prizes and the good reviews. ...

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 the moments that, because of some sensuous overkill they possess, remain distinct in the mind for years, perhaps for a lifetime." "
- Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times

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