Book review – “The Diviners” – Libba Bray

It’s seem appropriate that I wrote about the most recent book I read, The Diviners by Libba Bray,  on the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Why? Because this suspenseful novel is set during the roaring twenties and illicit gin and hidden speakeasies both make appearances.

This book was originally brought to my attention by a student, an occurrence which is incredibly gratifying. I avoided the book initially because it is 578 pages and seemed like a big commitment. The first 100 pages or so did nothing to hasten the speed of which I read, but, things quickly changed for me as the various characters began to both make an impression as individuals and reveal the manner in which they were interconnected within the story.

I won’t divulge too many details, but here’s the gist: seventeen-year-old Evie gets sent to live with her bachelor uncle in New York City after she scandalizes her hometown by accusing a well-regarded peer of getting someone in “a family way.” Her uncle is the proprietor of a museum dedicated to American folklore, superstition and the occult and Evie becomes involved in solving a mystery involving a serial killer who has seemingly returned from the dead.

There are all sorts of plot twists and the novel is filled with elements relating to WW I, various social movements of the time and historical figures. The last two hundred pages were a struggle for me – I could not put the book down! Here are a couple of quotes which caught my eye:

Spoken by flapper girl, Evie: “There is a hideous invention called the Dewey decimal System. And you have to look up your topic in books and newspapers. Pages upon pages…I though research would be more glamorous, somehow. I’d give the librarian a secret code word and he’d give me the one book I needed and whisper the necessary page numbers. Like a speakeasy. With books.”

Wouldn’t it be lovely if that were true!

And this from Evie’s Uncle will: “People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense – words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions – words. Stories. Myths. Lies. Promises. History.”

Pretty deep, right?

This was the 65th  book I’ve read this year (!) and is definitely one of the most memorable. Loved it!

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