The Stone Angel is possibly the best-known of Margaret Laurence's series of novels set in the fictitious town of Manawaka, Manitoba. First published in 1964 by McClelland and Stewart, The Stone Angel tells the story of Hagar Currie Shipley, using parallel narratives set in the past and the present-day 1960s. In the present-day narrative, 90-year-old Hagar is struggling against being put in a nursing home, which she sees as a symbol of death. The present-day narrative alternates with Hagar looking back at her life.
Although Margaret Laurence had been publishing fiction for a decade before The Stone Angel was published in 1964, it was this novel that first won her a wide and appreciative audience. When The Stone Angel was first published in 1964, most reviewers recognized it as a major achievement. Robertson Davies, in The New York Times Book Review, praised Laurence's insight into character as well as her 'freshness of approach her gift for significant detail. A reviewer for Time described The Stone Angel as 'one of the most convincing and the most touching portraits of an unregenerate sinner declining into senility since Sara Monday went to her reward in Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth.'
The book, amongst other titles by Laurence, was banned by some school boards and high schools, usually following complaints from fundamentalist Christian groups labelling the book blasphemous and obscene. The Stone Angel has been translated into French, as L'Ange de pierre (Montr al, 1976), German, and eleven other languages. It was also selected for the 2002 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Leon Rooke.