Carol Shields

(Née Warner) 1935 – 2003

Presented on October 10, 2017, by Lillian Tickles

 One of Canada’s most distinguished literary figures, Carol Shields left a legacy of novels, short stories, and poetry.

Born in a suburb of Chicago in the midst of the Depression, her middle-class upbringing was always a key component of her self-image and her creative literature. Upon marriage to a Canadian engineer, she lived most of her adult life in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Victoria. Home life became the core of her being but her irresistible impulse to write never wavered.

Always a voracious reader, she wondered why so much of the literature that had received prestigious awards, was authored by men. While attending college and university courses, she became quietly involved with the burgeoning feminist movement. She pursued books written by women. Biography and history interested her.

Her reading and writing blended. Feminine characters in her novels are clear, lively and responsible. Male characters are explored in the light of the time wherein they lived, the end of the 20th century…she portrayed what it was like to be a man, when gender codes and expectations were rapidly changing.

Shields is expert at evoking the feelings and concerns of ordinary people. Their triumphs and tragedies are depicted with sensitivity, wry humor and an intriguing use of language. Her extensive repertoire of work stretches over 20 books, including “The Stone Diaries”, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Governor General’s Award. Also notable are “Larry’s Party” which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and “Unless” her final novel which was nominated for the Booker, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. Her biography of “Jane Austen” won the Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction.

Acclaim for her writing went hand in hand with significant recognition of her commitment to Canadian community involvements. She was a companion to the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a member of the Order of Manitoba.