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A Memoir of Friendship: The Letters Between Carol Shields & Blanche Howard [Hardcover]

Blanche Howard , Allison Howard
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 10 2007

A Memoir of Friendship is a revealing collection of letters between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard that follows the arc of a thirty-year friendship. They first met in the early 1970s at a time when both women were embarking on writing careers and raising their families, and were steadfast friends until Shields’s untimely death in 2003.

Carol Shields started publishing poetry in her thirties and wrote her first novel, Small Ceremonies, in 1976. Over the next thirty years, she published more than twenty books and captured a devoted international following when The Stone Diaries won a Governor General’s Literary Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Shields also raised five children—a son and four daughters—with her husband, Don, and juggled motherhood and teaching with her desire to write.

Blanche Howard, herself juggling motherhood and a professional career and already a published, award-winning author, quickly became Shields’s close friend and occasional collaborator. Their most well-known collaboration is the novel A Celibate Season, which Howard later adapted for the stage.

A Memoir of Friendship is a rich and intimate portrait of a celebrated author, revealing a deep friendship between two women, their ambitions, and their history. Written with humour and insight, this window into the daily lives of Carol Shields and Blanche Howard explores their disappointments and joys, their thoughts on other writers and the craft of writing within the context of the current cultural and political scene.


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Review

'"A Memoir of Friendship" is a dialogue of grace and generosity...surprisingly gripping...' -- Quill & Quire

'"A Memoir of Friendship" is a significant achievement and a landmark book...the correspondence between Howard and Shields is fascinating....' -- Globe and Mail

About the Author

Carol Shields is the author of over twenty books, including The Stone Diaries, which won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Governor General’s Award. Her other books include The Republic of Love, Larry’s Party, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Unless, Shields’s final novel, which was nominated for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Giller Prize, and the Governor General’s Award, and was awarded the Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction. She also wrote the biography of Jane Austen, which won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. She lived in Winnipeg for many years and later in Victoria.

Blanche Howard is the author of four novels, including The Manipulator, which won the Canadian Booksellers’ Award, and Penelope’s Way. She is also the co-author of A Celibate Season with Carol Shields. Howard lives in North Vancouver.

Allison Howard, Blanche’s daughter, served as a reader and editor to Blanche Howard and Carol Shields during their writing of A Celibate Season. She lives in Penticton, B.C.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Collection of Belles Lettres Jan. 27 2011
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book was loaned to me by a friend who had recommended it over coffee a couple of months ago. All he said at the time was that as a collection of letters, it offered some very unique insights into the life and times of the Canadian writer, the late Carol Shields. As I am not a great fan of letters as a literary genre and not being overly impressed with Shields' work as a novelist, I took this voluminous book and placed it on a shelf in my study reserved for distant future reads. Well, I finally got around to reading it this week, and what a wonderful surprise! In the space of over three hundred pages covering thirty years, Shields and Howard reveal some very rich and dynamic qualities of their enduring friendship. One, they seemed to care enough about each other's writing experiences to be forever inquiring after them. Two, they came across as very humble people who enjoyed reading, writing and critiquing about some of the great adventures, mysteries and controversies of life. Three, the many letters between these two writers spilled out into their private lives in genuinely personable ways. Both liked to travel and meet famous people; both were married to self-absorbed men who still managed to find time to encourage their literary pursuits; and both suffered through the often lonely ordeal of facing death from opposite ends: one as the dying, the other as the friend. The letters ooze with moments of triumph, sorrow, fear, and creative reflection. This body of writing also provides some very intriguing insights into Canadian life in the eighties and nineties as Canadian women became more actively established as writers in the mould of Atwood, Calwood, and Munro. If these two are anything to go by, women certainly came into their own during this period by charting their own course through life. Great read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Epistolary Treasure Trove April 12 2007
A Memoir of Friendship -- the thirty-year exchange of letters between two writers and two friends -- is a treasure trove for any lover of the written word, providing compelling and intimate glimpses into the inner lives of these two prominent and much loved writers, through good times...and difficult ones. I couldn't put it down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 1.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring read July 22 2010
By ihath - Published on Amazon.com
I expected a few insights about writing, the life of a writer ...etc . Instead it full of niceties and mundane exchanges. Total waste of time.
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