Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sphere, 2010

 Based in part on the true story of the author's son's great-great grandmother and inspired by many family letters and memories of elderly relatives The Doctor and the Diva is a multi-layered, multi-textured historical novel. It begins in...

1903 - BOSTON - Dr Ravell is a young obstetrician whose reputation for helping couples conceive has made him a rising star. His patients include women from all walks of Boston society, but he is flattered when a family of illustrious physicians turn to him to treat one of their own family. Peter and Erika von Kessler have struggled for years to become pregnant but while Peter's desire for a child remains strong, Erika is beginning to yearn for something else. She is a very gifted opera singer , recognised within the restricted confines of Boston, but longing to go to Italy to study.

This first part of the book provides a fascinating look at a women's expected role in Boston society and gynaecology and fertility treatments of this era - I didn't realise it was available then.
Eventually circumstances send Dr Ravell off to....

TRINIDAD - the land of the hummingbird where he takes on the management of a cacao plantation and Erika and Peter will  visit to continue the fertility treatments. It is now that the author's writing skill becomes evident as the frigid wintery Boston gives way to the lush sensuousness of the island. One can almost hear the birdsong and smell the flowers.

On their return to Boston Erika and Peter have a son but five years of motherhood brings Erika the realisation she cannot have everything and she has to make a choice..........she follows her dream to....

FLORENCE where she immerses herself in studying and training to appear on the opera stage. The price is high, the divorce laws were not kind to mothers who abandoned their children.

It is a 'love triangle' story with three wonderfully developed central characters who are not always likeable but their obvious flaws, their selfishness and seemingly wrong decisions, make them very human. It's a book that explores many issues, particularly for women, love, marriage, divorce , fertility and the age old conflict between family and personal fulfilment. But what I liked best was that it left me wanting to know more about so much.  Trinidad, the birds , butterflies and coconut plantations.......Florence ,to listen to the arias that Ericka sings, and to read more about the medical history of the time.  That, for me, is the sign of a very good book.

Excellent historical fiction - I loved it!

Historical Fiction Challenge


  1. This book is on my TBR list and I can't wait to read it! Thanks for the great review!

  2. I'm so glad to hear that it's great. I have this on my TBR and now I am excited about reading it.

  3. Love the review. This is something I would enjoy and I've added this book on my wishlist.

  4. I'm so glad you liked/loved this book, I read it last fall had alos loved it.

  5. Guess I need to add this one to my list

  6. Glad you enjoyed it too Mari......and I hope everyone else will .