Sunday, February 13

Book Review: Unless

Title: Unless

Author: Carol Shields

Pages: 320

Summary: Reta Winters has many reasons to be happy, among them, her three almost grown daughters, her twenty-six year relationship with their father, her work translating the larger-than-life French intellectual and feminist Danielle Westerman, and the modest success she has had with her own novel. Then one day her eldest daughter, Norah, disappears and ends up mute and begging on a Toronto street corner. Around Norah's neck is a hand-lettered sign reading GOODNESS, And Reta, full of sudden anguished insight into the injustices of the gendered world, must tackle the mystery of her daughter's message.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I couldn’t put this book down, it grabbed a hold of me from the second I picked it up and kept that hold until I finished it. What a stunning book! Shield’s was a very gifted writer; her stunning writing style and voice are really showcased throughout the book.

The story itself is beautifully told. I was anxiously awaiting the mystery behind Norah’s reason for her disappearance and reason for living on the street, and I loved the reveal to what it was linked to. This whole aspect of the story, and how well written the emotions and inner thoughts of the family and their reactions to Norah was so well done. It made the characters feel very real and concrete. I found them all to be very believable characters, and I could feel for them on an emotional level.

I also really enjoyed the aspect of how the Reta explains her struggles as a writer and a woman. It was a very good side story, although I would have liked this aspect of the story (especially the triumphs and trials as an author) to have been less emphasised, I still found it to be an interesting aspect of the story. The trial a woman faces in the world was well done, and I liked how it linked up to the story as a whole. The story did have three different plot lines in sense, but for the most part, in the end, everything linked together nicely. Although my one criticism is, as I’ve said before, the insight to the writer side of Reta didn’t seem to mesh as well with the story as a whole. It was interesting, but I could have done with less of that and more focus on Norah and the families reactions and struggle through coming to terms with what has happened to her.

The writing is beautiful and sad the same time, it is so well done and it paints such a wonderful picture and mood for the reader. I was easily lost in the book and story. Mostly due to Shield’s writing. She was a fantastic author, and this is a wonderful book, well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! This book deals with a wide variety of things, writing, feminism (but not in your face), loss and struggle for identity. I think a wide variety of readers could enjoy the book. It is high on my recommended reads list.

What to read next: Good to Fault, A Good House


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Unless; I was captivated by it too.

  2. Mynovelreviews - Oh it was captivating alright. I was disappointed when it didn't win Canada Reads.

  3. you are in Canada! sneaky little thing. you were reviewing one too many of the Canada Reads Books. I snuck over to your Facebook page. lol

    now i really really want to read thi one. i'm on a feminism kick.

  4. Kalanna - Yes I'm in Canada, GTA area to be exact. I want to try some of the other Canada Reads books, and have some of the other years finalists on my shelf. I had planned on doing a "My Take" on this year's Canada Reads, but time got away from me. Maybe in my February wrap up post.

  5. Great review.

    There are so many aspects to this book. I liked the writing side of it, especially the female writer side of it. I liked how Shields made fun of her writer for looking at her writing so much.

    I love the two books you've recommended - Good to a Fault and A Good House - two excellent books, which both happen to be Canadian. I wonder is there another book with Good in it to go with these two? Too bad Unless wasn't called Goodness.

  6. raidergirl - I haven't read Good to Fault yet, but I have heard some great things about it, and its sitting on my shelf at the moment. There were a lot of elements to Unless, it's such a shame it didn't win Canada Reads.