Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Educate Emma: Books: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Dust Jacket Description:

"Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

 Characters: I love the cast of The Diviners. Evie is spunky enough to remind readers of Bray's other female protagonists, but she also has different faults. She's definitely representative of the flappers of Roaring Twenties, and that makes her somewhat different from the ahead-of-their-time gals in The Gemma Doyle Trilogy and Beauty Queens. Evie took a while to grow on me, but once she showed a sense of responsibility and compassion, she reeled me in. Memphis was another beloved character, who I totally have a book crush on. Through his eyes, readers get to learn more about the Harlem scene in New York City during the twenties. I also really enjoyed the quiet, serious nature of Jericho, and the surprise of his story towards the end of the novel. There are other great dynamics and characters as well, such as Theta and her best friend and Evie's socialist friend known as Mabel Rose. As always, Bray effortlessly weaves characters of intrigue and diversity into a spectacular landscape. 5 flowers. 

Writing: Bray is exceptional at making an era come alive. The descriptions of the twenties have metaphorical importance and also set the stage. The twenties dialogue seems excessive at times, but based on Evie's character, it's pretty realistic. It also becomes more amusing and less jarring as time passes. Only think that kept me out of the book was its early similarities to The Gemma Doyle Trilogy - the beginning scenario, the train scene. A lot seems to have been reused. I may have only noticed this because I am a die hard Gemma Doyle fan, but it was a little strange to me. 4 and a half flowers. 

Plot: I love Bray for really insisting that American culture is immigrant culture - it is not purely owned by white Puritans. It is a collection of all colours, histories and classes. And she doesn't just preach it either. The integral plot of the story has some great, unusual religious components. Bray's willingness to utilize different perspectives makes me very excited for the next three books in the series.

That being said, I felt that The Diviners didn't have as much intellectual weight as any of Bray's other works. The word evil is constantly used, and no one doubts what evil is - this was really strange coming from an author whose debut work asked challenging questions about situations and people we antagonize. There's no doubt that the plot is well crafted - its pacing is great and it has organic twists and turns - but those Libba Bray elements that always make the book unique are lacking. I'll give it time though - Bray has three more books to introduce more philosophical themes. 4 flowers 

End: In love. It felt like the perfect climax for the first book, and the last image reminds me of an old movie. 5 flowers. 

Overall: The characters in The Diviners are memorable, and Bray can certainly write.  I look forward to her infusion of non-European culture in later novels. I just hope she gets back to the focus on important questions that made me fall in love with her early work. Luckily, I have faith in my favourite author of all time. 4 and a half flowers.


  1. Hm, interesting observation about the "intellectual weight." We're definitely intrigued by this book and appreciate your sharing your thoughts! (But as thick as it is, we'll be waiting until we have a bigger lull in our reading lists... ;P)

    1. Haha, makes sense! It is really well written, and gives readers a great sense of the twenties. But yes, I understand the hesitance due to its weight.