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Word Count: 1,204
Hell hath no fury Unless by Carol Shields 224pp Fourth Estate The chapter headings of Carol Shieldss new novel take the form of prepositions and conjunctions - Notwithstanding Despite Whatever etc The word But is not among them though its one she has met in open deprecation or as a silent parenthesis when her books are reviewed Her best-known books - Happenstance The Stone Diaries Larrys Party The Republic of Love - are known for their accessibility but not for their wisdom are praised for their exquisite touch but not for their risk-taking or are said to do domestic ordinariness wonderfully but not wider social issues Women novelists are used to such gentle belittlements Jane Austen suffered them too and Carol Shields whose most recent book was a short biography of Austen has learned to live with them leaving the Big Bow-Wow strain to the boys and quietly getting on with what she does best But shed have to be saintly not to feel slighted or subtly injured by the suggestion that shes a suburban miniaturist And even a saint might want to question the underlying assumption here male greatmajor female goodminor Her new book makes plain that she isnt as quiescent as it appears The old civility is still there just about But Unless is her angriest book to date - a study in awakening and the belated loss of innocence Her heroine and narrator Reta Winters doesnt approve of anger and till now at 44 has had no reason to feel it She lives in a large comfortable house in a small town an hours drive from Toronto feels physically and emotionally close to her partner Tom whos a doctor has three teenage daughters and enjoys a modestly successful literary career - both as the translator of Danielle Westerman a formidable octogenarian whose memoirs run to several volumes and as a novelist in her own right There has only been
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