Fiction Ed’s Book Review: “Blink” and “The Stone Diaries”


I haven’t written a book review for ages but I finished two lately that are worth mentioning, one fiction, and one non-fiction. First, the non-fiction title.

One is “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, a fascinating book recommended to me by Katrina, a colleague from The Scots Mag. It’s about how, often, we make instinctive snap judgements – in the blink of an eye, as per the title. And then, as we gather more information and background, we might change that decision. And yet, how often have you wished you’d gone with that first instinct? This book is about that and whether it’s possible to harness it.

I found it particularly interesting when related to how I might assess a short story. Sometimes I just know that it is or isn’t right. And then, if it’s a no, I have to sit back and try to analyse why, for the writer’s sake. Sometimes I wish I could just say, “No, no thanks, there’s something, though I don’t know what.” Not exactly helpful though, is it?

Facebook Live

The book I finished before this is one we discussed on our recent Facebook live session. But then, you might not have seen that …

It’s “The Stone Diaries” by Carol Shields, recommended to me by “Friend” writer Kate Blackadder as we trained it back from The People’s Friend story writing workshop in York in September.

Kate knows how I love Anne Tyler – as she does – and told me Shields, although Canadian, is similar in style.

It’s very far from being a new book, but even so I managed to pick up an excellent copy in Oxfam and started reading. And then could barely put it down.

The Stone Diaries are those of Daisy Goodwill – born Daisy Stone on a kitchen floor in Manitoba, who dies nearly ninety years later in a Florida nursing home. Her life is ordinary, but it’s rare that a character’s life is described in such mundane, familiar detail including its hopes and disappointments, its dysfunction and triumphs.

Sometimes knowing that a book has won one of the big literary prizes is off-putting. I know I fear something experimental and unreadable. But this won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Catch up with more of our recommended reads on the Book Review page.

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.

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