My grateful thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy of The Diver and the Lover by Jeremy Vine in return for an honest review.
Published by Coronet on 3rd September 2020, The Diver and the Lover is available for purchase through the links here.
The Diver and the Lover
Soaked in sunlight, love and the mysteries surrounding a famous artist The Diver and the Lover is a novel inspired by true events.
It is 1951 and sisters Ginny and Meredith have travelled from England to Spain in search of distraction and respite. The two wars have wreaked loss and deprivation upon the family and the spectre of Meredith’s troubled childhood continues to haunt them. Their journey to the rugged peninsula of Catalonia promises hope and renewal.
While there they discover the artist Salvador Dali is staying in nearby Port Lligat. Meredith is fascinated by modern art and longs to meet the famous surrealist.
Dali is embarking on an ambitious new work, but his headstrong male model has refused to pose. A replacement is found, a young American waiter with whom Ginny has struck up a tentative acquaintance.
The lives of the characters become entangled as family secrets, ego and the dangerous politics of Franco’s Spain threaten to undo the fragile bonds that have been forged.
A powerful story of love, sacrifice and the lengths we will go to for who – or what – we love.
My Review of The Diver and the Lover
Meredith and Ginny need one another for very different reasons.
I had seen a few mixed comments about The Diver and the Lover so I was intrigued to read it for myself. I very much enjoyed it, not least because of the sweeping scope of the narrative which draws in the reader beautifully.
Jeremy Vine has meticulously researched Dali’s painting Christ of St John on the Cross that has been the catalyst for the story, and blended factual detail, events and real people with character and fiction in an entertaining, intriguing and absorbing read. I confess my ignorance of many elements of this story, so that I found my pleasure in reading The Diver and the Lover extended beyond the confines of the smashing narrative as I looked up various aspects, having been interested by their inclusion in the book. I’m desperate to see the painting for myself now too.
I found the title intriguing. Certainly there are several divers and lovers within the narrative, but the title could refer entirely to Adam, or someone like Meredith might be the lover through her love of Dali, art and family or perhaps The Diver and the Lover could represent a more allegorical concept with characters diving into relationships and free-falling from sanity, from their usual lives and from normality. I loved this almost contradictory aspect to contemplating the story. I think The Diver and the Lover rewards a contemplative approach to reading it as the more I thought about the narrative, the more I found.
And it’s a cracking narrative. With Ginny and Meredith at its heart, The Diver and the Lover spans geographical location from Scotland to Spain and delves into the history of Franco as well as Dali and Hollywood film so that there really is something for any reader here. From a relatively quiet beginning that reminded me of Elizabeth Buchan’s writing, the narrative builds until there are dramatic moments that I simply wasn’t expecting. I thought the balance between national and personal drama was very well achieved, and with the factual detail cleverly woven into the story I believed in the plot completely.
I found the characters fascinating. Meredith’s mental health condition, Ginny’s transition from child to woman, the arrogance of Dali and the diffidence of Adam spiced with Siobhan’s scheming jealousy, all created a cast of believable people. Indeed, I would have loved to tell Siobhan what I thought of her in person!
However, plot and character aside, once again it was theme that made The Diver and the Lover such a compelling read for me. Jeremy Vine explores passion and obsession so that his own interest in the painting shines through alongside the characters’ emotional, sexual, monetary and artistic desire, making for an intense atmosphere that I found captivating. I so enjoyed the way love is presented too. What touched me most was Meredith’s desperate desire to find family love and the overall message that fame and fortune pale into insignificance when place alongside friendship, acceptance and belonging felt very moving. There’s a brilliantly depicted picture of both avarice and altruism and when these themes are placed alongside real world events as they are here in The Diver and the Lover they make for a super read.
I thought Jeremy Vine’s blend of history, fiction and theme made The Diver and the Lover an interesting, engaging and actually very moving story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
About Jeremy Vine
Jeremy Vine is one of the UK’s best-known broadcasters. He presents a weekday show on Radio 2, radio’s most popular news programme. He also presents Jeremy Vine on Channel 5, a daily current affairs programme, and he fronts Eggheads, one of the longest-running quiz shows in British TV history.
Jeremy is an accomplished journalist and writer and has previously published two works of non-fiction.
He lives in Chiswick with his wife and their two daughters.