Originally reviewed here
.Why I Read It:
Required reading for my Religious Themes in Literature class.
Margaret Laurence is considered a classic Canadian author, but I unfortunately had an unpleasant experience with her work prior to having to read The Diviners
. Back in grade 12 I had to read Laurence's The Stone Angel
for my English class and I *hated* it. Maybe I would appreciate it more now, but my 18 year old self couldn't stand it, so I was less than excited to read another novel by her. Thankfully for me, I actually enjoyed this quite a bit.
The novel follows Canadian author Morag in two story lines taking place in different times: Morag growing up in a small Canadian prairie-town and Morag as an adult and dealing with her rebellious 18-year old daughter Pique who yearns to find her roots.
This novel is complex and layered without being self-indulgent and pretentious. Laurence has created an amazing character in Morag Gunn. Morag is severely flawed: she's prideful to a fault, she's ashamed of her adoptive parents, she exhibits classism, and she's cloying with her daughter. But Morag also has so many redemptive qualities as well: she's strong, she doesn't take crap from no one and she knows how flawed she is: she's ashamed of her pride and even by the novel's end she's not rid of it. She acknowledges it on several occasions, and you can tell that she IS always trying to better herself. She gets herself into some crappy situations, and while she isn't hunkey-dorey about it, she's never whiny either. She sticks to her guns, and yeah, she makes some mistakes, but who doesn't?
The secondary characters are just as well realized. There's a strong theme of ancestry throughout the course of the novel and how where we come from does and/or doesn't affect who we are and where we end up. My favourite secondary character was easily Christie, Morag's adoptive father. He suffers from shell shock and is scorned by his small town because of his job as the garbageman. Morag is ashamed of him too, but she simultaneously looks up to him and loves his stories of her ancestors' voyage to Canada. I loved loved loved their relationship, even when it broke my heart. Jules was also a well-rounded complicated man who also expounded on the theme of family and roots. His and Morag's relationship treads off the beaten path and isn't the most romantic, but I loved how he allowed her to be independent and didn't shun her or his daughter.
There's of course a lot more I could say about this book: there's a lot about faith (though not necessarily of the religious kind, though it does have religious undertones) in regards to the water divining and Morag's love of writing, and her need for it that I really enjoyed, as well as Morag's strenuous but equally heartfelt relationship with her daughter Pique. There's also something quintessentially Canadian about the whole novel (which I mean in a good way.)Final Verdict:
This novel completely redeemed Margaret Laurence in my eyes. Her novel The Stone Angel
did very little for me so I wasn't expecting to like The Diviners
, but I was proven wrong (yayy!). This isn't the most exciting novel; we follow one woman's life from childhood to adulthood and watch her struggles with classism (her participation in it, while simultaneously attempting to shun it). Morag is by no means a perfect woman, and she can be downright unlikable at times, but she redeems herself in just how human
she is. She acknowledges her imperfections, but that doesn't mean she rids herself of them either. The secondary characters are just as well developed and complex as Morag, and her relationships to them reflects this as well. So, if you're looking for something more on the literary side, something heavily character driven, then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this. Also recommended for lovers of Canadian classics (though if you're a fan of that you've probably already Laurence.. she's kind of at the top of that list.)