Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

First line: Doctor Ravell had already missed the funeral.

From the inside cover: It is 1903. Doctor Ravell is a young Harvard-educated obstetrician whose reputation for helping couples conceive has made him a rising star. He is flattered when a family of illustrious Boston physicians turns to him to treat one of their own members - a lovely opera singer named Erika von Kessler, who has struggled for years to become pregnant. As his attraction to her increases, and his treatments prove ineffectual, the pressure on the young doctor mounts.

By the time she meets Ravell, Erika has lost all hope of becoming a mother. Her extraordinary voice is gathering acclaim, and she is determined to move to Italy to launch her career in earnest. But becoming Doctor Ravell's patient will change Erika's life in ways she never could have imagined, and she has no idea of the lengths to which her husband will go to keep her by his side.

Lush and stunningly realized, The Doctor and the Diva moves from snowy Boston to the tropical forests and plantations of the Caribbean to the gilded balconies of Florence. This is a tale of romantic obsession, longing, and a woman's irreconcilable desires as she is forced to choose between the child she has always yearned for and the artistic career she cannot live without. Inspired by the author's family history, the novel is sensual and heart-stopping in its bittersweet beauty.

My thoughts: This is an interesting novel that takes place in Boston, Trinidad, Florence, Venezuela, Milan, and other exotic places during the very early 20th century. It is a book that explores the strange dynamic that emerges between a married couple and their doctor and how each of their choices and actions impact not only their own lives, but one another's as well. A spontaneous decision by one acts as a catalyst for all that follows, as their competing desires inexorably push them down a path of unintended consequences. The story and characters truly come to life within the book's pages and I couldn't help but feel myself become emotionally involved as I was reading. I think writing the book in third-person really worked, allowing us to waiver between each of the three main characters - having access to and insight into each of them. Adrienne McDonnell used her husband's family history as inspiration for this book - his great-grandmother left her husband and young son to pursue a singing career in Italy. This was Adrienne McDonnell's first book and I look forward to seeing what else she writes.


  1. Great review--I am going to check it out on Goodreads....

  2. Excellent review. I hope to read this one soon as the exotic locales appeal to me.

  3. Terrific review! Sounds really interesting.


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