Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The diviners (Laurence) 323

Regular readers will know that I have "discovered" Laurence this year and have hugely enjoyed reading her books for this challenge. The diviners was the fourth and final one of her novels published as a VMC; she has also written a book of short stories (A bird in the trees) which fits into the Manawaka sequence but which hasn't been published as a VMC.

Like the other books in the sequence, it portrays a "strong woman" and her search for identity; now this is nothing new but Laurence, writing in the 1960s and 1970s, really pre-dates the woman's movement, but it is fitting that it should be included in the Virago Modern Classics series. The book is the story of Morag Gunn, now in her 40s, who looks back over her life through a series of flashbacks and memories - these are cleverly described through looking at photographs ( subtitled eachtime"Snapshot") and by more active thoughts (subtitled "Memory bank movie"). It's a very clever approach that combines present and past and enables the reader to be involved in the past as if it were the present.

Morag Gunn, like Laurence's other female characters has a mixed life. Her parents died when she was very young, and she ended up in the prairie town of Manawaka living with a childless couple. We see her through her schooldays, growing up and coming of age, her on-off love affairs, and then her career as a writer and relationship with her daughter. Essentially a wonderful life-story book, I wonder if any of it reflects Laurence's life. I must find a biography of Laurence!

Definitely a classic.

It's been published twice by Virago; unfortunately my copy came from the library and wasn't a Virago, but I'd rather like a copy of the second later edition as it matches my copy of Stone Angel. 3.5*
(Overall I think that my favourite Laurence is probably Stone Angel or Jest of God, but all and any of them are worth reading)

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