Monday, July 05, 2004


At Book Group tonight we discussed Unless by Carol Shields.

The group was split roughly 50-50 as to those who enjoyed it and those who didn’t so much. I was in the former group and thought the book raised some interesting questions about greatness versus goodness, the role of women in the world in general and in literature in particular, the nature of families and the importance of the small things, the putty that holds everything together.

That said, I felt it was rather dated it some of its polemic and at times rather self-conscious about it’s devices.

The question of goodness reminded me of How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. Hornby isn’t I’d say as accomplished a writer as Shields, but his book concentrates more completely on the issue of goodness and what it might mean. In Unless on the other hand the issue is just one of those broached and is seen generally as being something distinct from greatness, much smaller and unassuming and on the whole undervalued.

I want to read Unless again when I have more time to better grasp what it is trying to say about this and the other issues raised. As it is, I’m not sure I completely understand why the narrator’s daughter having dropped out from life, now sits on a street corner with a sign around her neck that simple reads “goodness”.

No time to join the others in the pub after we've finished as I need to get home and (yes you've guessed it) do more Greenbelt emails. There's a pattern forming...

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