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Unless School & Library Binding – Jul 1 2003


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School & Library Binding, Jul 1 2003
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Product Details

  • School & Library Binding
  • Publisher: Bt Bound (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0613659287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0613659284
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By peter wild on May 23 2002
Format: Hardcover
If I was lazy I'd tell you that this is the book that Nick Hornby's How to be Good could have been (if Nick Hornby was even a fifth of the writer that Carol Shields is). Or I could say that this is a twenty-first century reinterpretation of When She Was Good, one of Philip Roth's earlier masterpieces.
Unfortunately, such laziness would do this rather wonderful and thought-provoking book a grave disservice - in that, although goodness - the idea of goodness, what it means to be good - is at the centre of this book, it shares that space with ruminations on the art of writing, and what it is to be a woman (and a woman writer, and a wife, and a mother, and a friend, and a person in the world) at the beginning of what we like to regard as a more enlightened time to be alive.
Reta Winters took her husband Tom's surname when they first got together (part of the reason being that she was originally Reta Summers and they both agreed that one of the seasons had to change). In lots of ways, this information (which is almost the opposite of a revelation, whatever the word for that is) contains the genesis of this novel writ small. They have three daughters together, Reta and Tom, the oldest of whom decides on the cusp of her nineteenth birthday to throw up her studies and live on the street with a simple cardboard sign - on which the word GOODNESS is written - on a string around her neck. Reta has no idea why her daughter has chosen this path and that - the abstract decision to withdraw from the life you are expected to live - throws the world out of kilter. To all intents and purposes life continues on as it did before (Reta and Tom still sleep together, Reta continues to write the sequel to her comic novel, the family entertain at Christmas).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Magnolia Flutter on Feb. 16 2010
Format: Paperback
Unless is beautifully written. It may be too subtle for many people (see reviews claiming it to be tedious), but if you look into her finely woven story, there are many layers of overlapping meaning. If you are not a feminist, Shields may seem to assume too much. Yet I find her feminism to be right on the mark, humble and poignant.
She points out the irony of writing about a woman who is writing about a woman writing. But going through the story, she teaches a clinic on how to write a story. I found it captivating and have read it repeatedly and recommended it to all the women in my life.
Shields also embraces the accusation that she writes about the small moments and small lives. This book was much more memorable than the Stone Diaries which was also fascinating.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patricia M. Whyte on Nov. 20 2002
Format: Hardcover
Carol Shields writes of a mother's worst fear....a child who detaches from society to live on the street. Throughout the journey, the mother microscopically examines her past and present in an attempt to understand why her daughter would do this.
Anyone who has ever had to face a loss like this could identify with Carol Shield's portrayal of a life that has gone awry.
Carol touches on many nerves and many issues in this beautifully written novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Clare on June 26 2006
Format: Paperback
Unless is Shields' masterpiece, a treatise on womanhood, motherhood and personhood. Moreover, read carefully, it's a how-to guide of novel writing. Unless is a sad story with triumph at its core, and I will read it again and again as long as I have eyes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Melanie on April 3 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book was well-written, but it lacked the lustre of the Stone Diaries or the Republic of Love or Swann, which Shields wrote a number of years ago. The ending of Unless was especially disappointing, as it seemed out of place somehow. If you haven't yet read one of her novels, don't pick this one. The Stone Diaries is a much better novel, with more depth, better characterization and a better plot.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shepherdess Extraordinaire TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Dec 12 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with the reviewer, Carrad's, statement, "Moaning for pages and pages and pages about how female authors and characters have been marginalized for centuries does not justify the artistic failure inherent in marginalizing all the male characters in the book, who are poorly-realized cardboard cutouts." The main character Reta is pretty presumptious about why her daughter has withdrawn from society and yet in the end the reason is something very different. Although I can see the realtionship and symbolism. But it seems that Shields uses this novel to ramble on about woman's plight of being powerless and other political musings. It just ends up being a very disconnected and uninteresting novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 23 2011
Format: Paperback
The message that the late Carol Shields seems to convey to Canadian women in this posthumous novel is that they are non-entities unless they discover and answer to those important qualities in their lives that represent the creative, the personal, and the purposeful. While there is a resemblance of a story in this book, "Unless" tends to focus more on the views of a promising Canadian popular authoress as she seeks her spiritual identity and develops her professional mettle in a male-dominated world. In Reta Winters' world, women have traditionally been expected to put the interests of others before their own. On the verge of becoming a writer of a best-seller, "My Thyme is Up", Reta Winters finds herself in the throes of a continuous struggle to redefine herself as a uniquely talented individual. Much of how we see Reta is through her efforts to be fully engaged in developing her main characters, Alicia and Roman, as they mirror her efforts to realize a freed-up life. She forever wants them to live a life that is better than what she and her family are currently living. One of Reta's strengths as a writer is her talent to create a very real tension between who she is actually is and what she wants to become. Her novel becomes the grounds on which she deliberately works out her own lifelong pursuits through the interactions of fictional characters. It isn't just the unique interests of her talented husband Tom that threaten to overshadow Reta's ordinary existence. Other forces like her dysfunctional daughter Norah's decision to drop out of university, her domineering mentor Dr. Westerman's commitment to the feminist cause, and her overbearing New York editor's desire to get her to rewrite her novel conspire to derail Reta's promising writing career.Read more ›
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