Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

For this first episode of 2024 we are joined by the chair of Virago Press, Lennie Goodings to discuss a novel by her fellow Canadian, Margaret Laurence. First published in 1964, The Stone Angel is a landmark in modern Canadian fiction. The narrator is the unforgettable Hagar Shipley, a spiky, sharp-tongued, proud and profane ninety-year-old who is trying to resist her family’s attempts to transfer her into a nursing home. This battle is interwoven with memories of her long and difficult life, much of it spent in the Manitoban prairie town of Manawaka, a place closely based on Laurence’s own home town of Neepawa and which would provide the setting for three more novels and a collection of stories. We discuss the book’s place in the Canadian pantheon and speculate on why it hasn’t become and established classic outside Canada (it is no longer in print with Virago). We also discover some unexpected coincidences among Margaret Laurence’s neighbours during the years she lived in England in the late sixties and early seventies. This is a book that deserves to find many more new readers.

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