Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Diviners: My Thoughts

No, no, friends.
I don’t mean this Diviners.
No, no. The old one. Turn back the page. 1974.
CanLit 101. The other Margaret.
Margaret Laurence’s, The Diviners.
I loved it.
The Diviners was Laurence’s final [adult] novel, the culmination of her Manawaka pentalogy. [← Should be a word, but isn’t.] I have read three of the others, so I am no stranger to her fiction, but I must say, The Diviners is the best one thus far.
Excuse me? Yes, you with the waving hand in the air?
Ahh, good question. Why is this a good novel.
Because it is deep, unsimple, ahead-of-its-time.
Rich in symbolism. Poetic, gutsy. Brave, real, unsentimental.
Of all of these adjectives I will single out “real”, and elaborate for three minutes or so.

Morag Dunn, born in 1920’s Manitoba has not ever had an easy go of it. Her parents die and she is shipped off to be raised by an eccentric duo worthy of being characters in anything by Flannery O’Connor.
But I am focusing on “real” here. Not grotesgue. [And I’ve only got three minutes…] Well, it is obvious that Laurence models Morag after her own life, being raised in a small Manitoba town, working on a local newspaper, marrying a professional man, separating, becoming a novelist, and then living for stretches in Vancouver and Britain.
In all of this, [Morag has a daughter out of wedlock] is the search for love, for significance and for permanence. Stability. And above all, a sense of home or belonging.
Does Morag find this?
I believe she does. But only by coming full circle. By realizing that our roots go deep, and that the familiar is not to be despised, but sometimes, embraced. By looking up [as she so often does in the novel] and hearing the silence behind the honk of the Canada geese flying south for the winter.
Different geese, perhaps. But same instinctual journey. Life being different participants along a very similar flightpath.

The hand waved in the air is that of my lovely niece Sarah, asking “Why?”
A couple years ago The Diviners was a required text in her university course in English Literature, and I recall her chagrin at being forced to read it.
“It’s so booooooooring!” she lamented, as I leafed through her Library copy.
At the time, I had not yet read the book myself, so I did not know what to say.
I hope she asks me again when I go back home for Christmas, ten days from now.



bomb.ass.ting said...

Strangely enough I'm writing a paper on the Diviners for my Canadian Fiction university course. I don't find it boring, I quite liked Laurence's style of writing. The paper is due tomorrow though! Yikes!

Unknown said...

It's neat to see Morag live on as long as she has. As any lover of Canlit who their favourite female protag is and my money would be on Morag.

Kathleen Molloy, author - Dining with Death