The Diviners

Overview

The culmination of the Manawaka cycle, and Laurence's final novel, The Diviners is an epic tour de force. It is the story of Morag Gunn, an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. We follow her from her lonely childhood in a small town on the Canadian prairie through her demeaning marriage and escape from it into writing, fiction, and finally back to rural Canada, where she faces a different challenge - the necessity to understand, and let go of, the daughter she loves. Throughout, Morag is ...
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Overview

The culmination of the Manawaka cycle, and Laurence's final novel, The Diviners is an epic tour de force. It is the story of Morag Gunn, an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. We follow her from her lonely childhood in a small town on the Canadian prairie through her demeaning marriage and escape from it into writing, fiction, and finally back to rural Canada, where she faces a different challenge - the necessity to understand, and let go of, the daughter she loves. Throughout, Morag is forced to test her strength against the world - and at last achieves the life she had determined would be hers. In Morag Gunn, Laurence has created a figure whose experience emerges as that of all dispossessed people in search of their birthright, and one who survives as an inspirational symbol of courage and endurance.

A middle-aged writer struggles to understand people and events that have shaped her life. With unusual wit and depth, she recognizes that her daughter needs solitude and work as much as she need the love of her family. "Laurence's . . . heroine is certainly one of the more . . . believable women to have appeared in recent fiction."--The New Yorker.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A pleasure to read!…Richly textured, beautifully written.”
The New Yorker

“Leaves us breathless and cheering.”
–Montreal Gazette

From the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226469355
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Series: Phoenix Fiction Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 397
  • Sales rank: 637,885
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Laurence was born in Neepawa, Manitoba, in 1926. Upon graduation from Winnipeg’s United College in 1947, she took a job as a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen.

From 1950 until 1957 Laurence lived in Africa, the first two years in Somalia, the next five in Ghana, where her husband, a civil engineer, was working. She translated Somali poetry and prose during this time, and began her career as a fiction writer with stories set in Africa.

When Laurence returned to Canada in 1957, she settled in Vancouver, where she devoted herself to fiction with a Ghanaian setting: in her first novel, This Side Jordan, and in her first collection of short fiction, The Tomorrow-Tamer. Her two years in Somalia were the subject of her memoir, The Prophet’s Camel Bell.

Separating from her husband in 1962, Laurence moved to England, which became her home for a decade, the time she devoted to the creation of five books about the fictional town of Manawaka, patterned after her birthplace, and its people: The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, The Fire-Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners.

Laurence settled in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1974. She complemented her fiction with essays, book reviews, and four children’s books. Her many honours include two Governor General’s Awards for Fiction and more than a dozen honorary degrees.

Margaret Laurence died in Lakefield, Ontario in 1987.

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Read an Excerpt

The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction. This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible, still fascinated Morag, even after the years of river-watching.

The dawn mist had lifted, and the morning air was filled with swallows, darting so low over the river that their wings sometimes brushed the water, then spiralling and pirouetting upward again. Morag watched, trying to avoid thought, but this ploy was not successful.

Pique had gone away. She must have left during the night. She had left a note on the kitchen table, which also served as Morag’s desk, and had stuck the sheet of paper into the typewriter, where Morag would be certain to find it.

Now please do not get all uptight, Ma. I can look after myself. Am going west. Alone, at least for now. If Gord phones, tell him I’ve drowned and gone floating down the river, crowned with algae and dead minnows, like Ophelia.

Well, you had to give the girl some marks for style of writing. Slightly derivative, perhaps, but let it pass. Oh jesus, it was not funny. Pique was eighteen. Only. Not dry behind the ears. Yes, she was, though. If only there hadn’t been that other time when Pique took off, that really bad time. That wouldn’t happen again, not like before. Morag was pretty sure it wouldn’t. Not sure enough, probably.

I’ve got too damn much work in hand to fret over Pique. Lucky me. I’ve got my work to take my mind off my life. At forty-seven that’s not such a terrible state of affairs. If I hadn’t been a writer, I might’ve been a first-rate mess at this point. Don’t knock the trade.

Morag read Pique’s letter again, made coffee and sat looking out at the river, which was moving quietly, its surface wrinkled by the breeze, each crease of water outlined by the sun. Naturally, the river wasn’t wrinkled or creased at all — wrong words, implying something unfluid like skin, something unenduring, prey to age. Left to itself, the river would probably go on like this, flowing deep, for another million or so years. That would not be allowed to happen. In bygone days, Morag had once believed that nothing could be worse than killing a person. Now she perceived river-slaying as something worse. No wonder the kids felt themselves to be children of the apocalypse.

No boats today. Yes, one. Royland was out, fishing for muskie. Seventy-four years old this year, Royland. Eyesight terrible, but he was too stubborn to wear glasses. A marvel that he could go on working. Of course, his work did not depend upon eyesight. Some other kind of sight. A water diviner. Morag always felt she was about to learn something of great significance from him, something which would explain everything. But things remained mysterious, his work, her own, the generations, the river.

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Table of Contents


I. River of Now and Then
II. The Nuisance Grounds
III. Halls of Sion
IV. Rites of Passage
V. The Diviners
Album
Afterword
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