17 May 2011

Book Review: The Doctor and The Diva by Adrienne McDonell

In Boston in 1903, Dr Ravell is doing great things to help couples struggling to become pregnant create families of their own with his own advanced medical techniques. He is a rising star in the medical world so when Erika Von Kessler and her husband struggle to conceive a baby, they enlist the services of Dr Ravell to try and help them create their own family. However, when his initial treatments fail and Erika enters into a deep depression, Ravell decides to try something completely shocking, something that has to be so secret he has to take it to the grave with him. However, he doesn't count on he and Erika falling in love from afar and when she travels to Italy to pursue her dream of becoming an Opera singer, the miles don't seem to matter, when Erika thinks of the doctor, he is with her. Will their love story have a happy ending?

If you look back at all of my reviews on this site, you will see that I really only read within the chick lit genre because I enjoy it, and I find it easy to read and get through my review books. However, when this book arrived, I was really intrigued by it, and I loved the gorgeous cover which instantly grabbed my attention. After spending a while trying to choose my next read, I stumbled across this book and decided to give it a go. Being set in the early 1900's, it wasn't my usual type of book but I thought it was worth a try, and I am so glad that I did because it was an absolute pleasure to read from start to finish and has certainly opened my eyes to trying new genre's within the women's fiction umbrella.

The book begins by introducing us to Dr Ravell, a man that you can instantly warm to because he is just so nice, wanting to help people create their own families, and using techniques which are completely common-place in today's society but were new and amazing in 1903, when the book begins. He quickly meet the Von Kessler's, and sets about trying his usual techniques to get Erika pregnant, but when they don't work, he tries something quite different, something the reader can probably guess but is none the less shocking when you read it because you almost can't believe he would do something like this. You can see how he is driven by his lust and love for Erika though, and I did feel very sorry for him.

Erika Von Kessler on the other hand was a woman who I warmed to at first, yet her actions towards her young son later in the book were awful and not something I could accept as a mother reading the book. I found it hard to read this part of the book actually, you can feel Erika's anguish at having to make the choices that she did but I felt her to be a selfish and self-centred character, as a mother I could never put my hopes and dreams above my son, yet Erika found a way to justify doing just that, which was a little hard. As I say, I did like her at first, her struggle to become a mother is one many women will be able to relate to which actually makes her later decisions all the more a bitter pill to swallow for the reader.

The side story of Erika's opera career is wonderful to read, and certainly opened my eyes to the world of Opera and the training involved for the people who perform this sort of music. McDonnell has clearly done her research within the operatic world, about techniques, correct terminilogy and also the music that is sung and performed in opera's in Italy at the time of the book. I did find myself getting totally absorbed into Erika's world, desperate for her to get what she wanted in her career, although there was still always a small part of me which disliked her because of her action's as a mother, something I just couldn't my head around personally. However, I accept this was perhaps more acceptable in the book's time than it would be in the present society so you do have to relate it like that. The writing style is excellent, she deals with both Erika's and Ravell's worlds perfectly, describing places from beautiful Italy, to the Caribbean with ease, and taking you on the world journey with these characters, spreading across the years with ease.

Overall, I thought this book was really fantastic to read, it definitely transports you to a totally new and different world, something which I found fascinating to read about and I really enjoyed every page. Yes, there are a lot of shocking actions within the book, from both Ravell and Erika Von Kessler, but they do make you question how far people will go to pursue their dreams and to help the one that you love. McDonnell writes beautifully about the time - settings, costumes, music, and it is all so vivid you can imagine it as you go along. The characters aren't perfect, they are definitely flawed human beings but that makes them all the more real, and makes you somehow sympathise for them all the more. I would definitely recommend this book, unusual and very readable.

Rating: 4/5

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