Friday, August 13, 2010

The Doctor and The Diva


What a pleasure it is when you get the triple threat historical novel. One that entertains, enlightens and surprises.

Opening at the turn of the 20th century in Boston, The Doctor and The Diva is the story of Erika von Kessler's search for herself. Opera singer wannabe Erika is happily married to successful botanist Peter. They would be a golden couple except for one thing, after years of marriage they have been unable to conceive a child. Erika is trying to reconcile herself to this but Peter still has hope and takes her to see yet another doctor. Dr. Ravell is a young, modern and up on the latest procedures obstetrician.

That is as much plot as you know by the end of the first chapter and that is as much of the plot as I am going to tell you. I will tell you though that the first surprise I had with D and D was in that first chapter. that it wasn't the last and it wasn't about the medical techniques Dr. Ravell uses---although who knew? This is definitely an unpredictable novel. Unpredictable and yet true to it's time. There is a wonderful accomplishment.

More than once The Doctor and the Diva made me think about Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark. Like Thea in Lark, Erika dreams of becoming an Opera singer. In each book the author writes eloquently about music, the time period, the struggles of the artist to pursue their art in the face of uncompromising circumstances, ambition and the desires for home and family. However where Thea has as many supporters as detractors along her journey, Erika's pursuit is a more solitary effort.

In the development of Erika, Peter and Dr. Ravell, author Adrienne McDonnell has built up three distinct, interesting and flawed individuals. You root for the happiness of all three of them. McDonnell has done an equally fine job with the settings and historical detail. The Doctor and The Diva is a fascinating read. It was better than I was prepared for and totally satisfying.


P.S.  The U.K. cover. Very different from the U.S. cover. Although each cover is attractive neither one of them does the book much service. The U.S. cover is ambiguously romantic but a little cheesey and this cover.... I'm not making the connection.

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