The uneasy partnership of feminism and ageing in Carol Shields’s Unless

Sarah Falcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unless (2002) is Canadian author Carol Shields’s final novel, a text concerned with the mother-daughter relationship and a woman’s place in a patriarchal world. It is also a novel about ageing and, particularly, with its forty-three to forty-four-year-old protagonist, about middle age. Attention to the novel’s representation of time, ageing, and generational identity suggests that this text, which is usually read as Shields’s most feminist work, does not propound a clear and certain feminist narrative. Reta’s story demonstrates that, despite the often strident feminist politics of this novel, the implications and effects of the intersection of ageing and gender cannot be fully articulated. Following on from the proliferation of writing in English about women and ageing in the 1990s, Unless can be seen as part of an emerging – and not necessarily coherent – conversation about ageing and gender in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Romance Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017


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