Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Diviners/Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray ISBN: 9780316126113, Little Brown: NY: 2012 Although this book is classified as YA fiction, I suspect that’s because most of the protagonists are young adults. The thematic material of the book, however, deals more than a little graphically with murder, religious fanaticism and even war. The plot of this book is certainly readable, and there is humor and humanity to balance the violence and horror. While the characters are well drawn, even memorable, the real star of this book is the city of New York in 1926. The 20s are roaring at full force, and the entire city throbs with a sense of liberation and an urgency to embrace life at its best. Young women are shortening their skirts and their hair, and stepping out to taste the delights of jazz clubs, forbidden drinks and romance. Harlem is experiencing a Renaissance of music, writing and art, and its musicians draw all New York to its clubs. The city is so well described that I found myself becoming nostalgic for a place that existed long before I was even born. It teemed with life of all sorts, and it gloried in its energy and brashness. The theater ruled, and the Ziegfeld girls pranced from performance to party, giving little thought to their futures, or to the often less than luxurious circumstances in which they lived. They had what they wanted: They were in New York! Yet, just beneath the surface, a serial killer, who turned out to be much more, produced his own horrific drama, leaving mutilated bodies along the way and preparing, on a supernatural level for something far more devastating. His enemies were few and not quite competent; still, they won, through their persistence and courage. While WWI was long over, it provides a dark undercurrent that threads its way through the story. We are reminded that part of the frenetic activity we see is a reaction to the horror of that war, when almost everyone could count a loved one among the lost. The author’s excellent research and especially her use of period dialog turned this book from a repeat of a fairly often explored theme into something fresh, vibrant and very pleasing. Random Thoughts. I have visited NYC a few times, and while I enjoyed my visits, I was always glad to go home. I don’t have the temperament for its pace or its noise. I think I love the idea of NYC. Its iconic presence is always there and just knowing that orients me in a strange way. It’s a brassy, brash, irreverent place that never sleeps and never gives up or in. The destruction of the Trade Center wounded it, but not for long, and it came back with a shout of defiance, and always will. It seems to contain the world on an island, a place where one can find anything from anywhere.

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