“Either the bloody thing will get published or it won’t.”
- Margaret Laurence (re. The Diviners)
I’ve had a number of responses to last Thursday’s blog, deeply felt emails about Margaret Laurence’s work. One was from a writer who felt Laurence’s presence during the writing of her own novel, with the reminder to be true to her own voice throughout. Another came from an artist who recalled reading The Diviners years ago, and reacting so powerfully to a dialogue section that she could actually hear the voices speaking. Another reader wrote simply that The Stone Angel and The Diviners are her two favourite books. Period.
I was moved to pull my worn copy of The Diviners off the shelf for the first time in many years. It’s seen better days; the pages are yellowing and the inscription bears the confident and slightly curlicue signature “Binnie Payzant, 13J”, written when I was Morag Gunn’s daughter Pique’s age. With a nod to the nearby stack of newer Canadian novels awaiting my gaze, I sat in my reading chair and began.
The opening lines drew me in (see my Writing page), and I haven’t stopped reading since. Where I was Pique’s age when I read The Diviners in high school, for this reading I am exactly Morag’s. Through adult eyes it’s a whole new story, and yet it is as familiar as an old friend. What thrills me is that I CANNOT PUT IT DOWN -The Diviners remains one of the finest and most absorbing novels I have ever read. There is no doubt in my mind that it laid the foundation for subsequent Canadian novels, a number of which sit piled by my reading chair, and who knows, perhaps one or two I haven’t yet had the chance to write.