Tuesday, December 25, 2012
The Diviners by Libba Bray
It's 1926, and seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill has been sent to stay with her stuffy, old Uncle Will in New York City after a parlor trick goes awry. Determined to make a name for herself, she maneuvers her way into the nightlife wrought with speakeasies, chorus girls, and underground parties. She quickly learns that New York City is the perfect place for a small-town girl like her to reinvent herself. The only problem is that New York City is also the perfect place for evil to prey on innocent victims. Pretty soon, as bodies start piling up, Evie's "parlor trick" becomes the only thing that can stop a serial killer.
Bray's masterful portrayal of Prohibition Era Manhattan pulls the reader into a world of flappers, speakeasies, and propaganda. The novel is full of murder and suspense that plays off of the supernatural and occult. As multiple subplots collide, readers gets introduced to unique urban legends and historical information.
Bray effectively uses New York City and the Harlem Renaissance as backdrops that address larger social issues facing America during the 1920's: racism, religious fervor, decadence of youth, police corruption, aftermath of WWI, and feminism. Through characters such as Theta Knight, Mabel Rose, Sam Lloyd, Memphis Campbell, Henry DuBois, and Jericho, social issues come to life and humanize struggles people faced. Unfortunately, with so many characters and so many subplots, it takes a long time to set up each context. There were times that remembering information about each character and plot was challenging. So much build-up (and flipping back-and-forth between stories) runs the risk of readers losing interest. Sometimes less is more.