The Doctor and the Diva: Book summary and reviews of The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

The Doctor and the Diva

A Novel

By Adrienne McDonnell

The Doctor and the Diva
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2010,
    432 pages.

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About this book

Book Summary

It is 1903. Dr. Ravell is a young Harvard-educated obstetrician with a growing reputation for helping couples conceive. He has treated women from all walks of Boston society, but when Ravell meets Erika - an opera singer whose beauty is surpassed only by her spellbinding voice - he knows their doctor-patient relationship will be like none he has ever had.

After struggling for years to become pregnant, Erika believes there is no hope. Her mind is made up: she will leave her prominent Bostonian husband to pursue her career in Italy, a plan both unconventional and risky. But becoming Ravell's patient will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Lush and stunningly realized, The Doctor and the Diva moves from snowy Boston to the jungles of Trinidad to the gilded balconies of Florence. This magnificent debut is a tale of passionate love affairs, dangerous decisions, and a woman's irreconcilable desires as she is forced to choose between the child she has always longed for and the opera career she cannot live without. Inspired by the author's family history, the novel is sensual, sexy, and heart-stopping in its bittersweet beauty.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Some novels just naturally enslave you, and this is one of them.... The effectiveness of the narrative comes from the novelist's striking skill. From the very first pages we are utterly engaged in what's going to happen to these three people -- they become as close to us as family friends.... These three people give themselves over to their passions. They smell every perfume, every last flower, every last drop of human sweat.... We forget it all too often, but the world offers us immeasurable enchantment -- if only we keep our eyes open, our ears alert, and remember to inhale.... [a] brilliant debut novel...." - The Washington Post

"In her book-club friendly debut, McDonnell weaves the intriguing tale of an early 20th-century opera singer torn between her career and motherhood.... A twisting tale of miscommunication, love, and unrealized dreams." - Publishers Weekly

"Great storytelling and a very modern heroine ... The Doctor and the Diva has the makings of a big success." - Gail Godwin, author of Unfinished Desires and A Mother and Two Daughters

"The Doctor and the Diva is so beautifully written and lushly set, it was impossible for me to put down, and the characters continue to haunt me long after I turned the last page." - Sara Gruen, bestselling author of Water for Elephants and the forthcoming Ape House

"I don't know when I have been so completely entranced and held spellbound by a novel. Brilliant and beautifully written ... McDonnell is a masterful storyteller.... This is a major accomplishment and marks the debut of a tremendous talent." - Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes

"The Doctor and the Diva is an incredibly moving tale of passion, regret, and ultimate triumph.... Adrienne McDonnell has created some of the most memorable characters I've ever met. A superb achievement." - Julie Garwood, bestselling author of Sizzle and Fire and Ice

"... From the moment we first meet Erika von Kessler, singing beside her uncle's grave, she casts a spell.... Richly imagined ... The Doctor and the Diva is an irresistible debut." - Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mary O. (Boston, MA)
a perfect diva
The Doctor and the Diva captured my interest from the start. It is a book that is hard to put down and a perfect page turning "summer beach read". The twists and turns all point to how passion drives the soul. You feel like you are a world traveler embracing each character's life and journey. A great read!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kathy S. (DeForest, WI)
A Love Story of a Family
This book is not only a beautiful love story, but a good book to learn about early obstetric practices, Trinidad and Italian opera.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Linda S. (Oceanside, NY)
Disappointment
I am a huge fan of historical fiction so I was really looking forward to this book. It started off really well, I found the information on infertility treatment in the early part of the 20th century fascinating. However in the middle of the book the story got bogged down in too much detail, so much so that I found it hard to continue on at times. In addition the three main characters, in spite of some good intentions, were are so selfish I found it difficult to like them. The only one I had any real sympathy for was the child. Each adult in this book made choices without really considering the ramifications and although at times a compelling story in the end it was more disappointing than enjoyable.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Sally G. (Saint Johns, FL)
Romance
I gravitated to this book as the reviews stated the story was born of a real person but fictionalized.

It started out very strong and the characters were very much like the yuppy culture of today. As it went on I started to dislike Erika as a spoiled brat. She was gifted with the voice of an angel and yet angry as she could not have a child. I almost felt her stamping of feet….but I want a child and then continue my dream to sing opera in Italy. The husband, Peter, was almost as bad.

Enter the timeless issue of fertility and the doctor, Dr. Ravell , with his modern designs for infertility treatment.

The three lives become intertwined in Boston, beautiful and lush coconut plantations in Trinidad and finally in Italy.

This book has a romantic story to tell and is an easy read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jinny K. (Fremont, CA)
Charming Story
What an enjoyable first novel. The author tells a good tale with authentic and likable characters. The themes of love and longing are depicted realistically, and the locations are vividly portrayed. The infertility theme was engaging, and especially intriguing given the time frame of the book - who knew there was so much going on in this specialty so long ago?

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Jennifer F. (Saratoga, CA)
Disappointing, lack of character development
I found The Doctor and the Diva to be a disappointing read, although it had moments of potential. Both the doctor and the diva led interesting lives, yet their choices were regularly selfish and predictable. In the end, I found the main characters to be unlikable, and therefore, I didn't much care about what happened to them.

...14 more reader reviews

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Adrienne McDonnell has taught literature and fiction writing at the University of California, Berkeley. She based The Doctor and the Diva, her first novel, on the true story of an ancestor - a woman who deserted her wealthy husband and child to further her operatic career. The author relied on a trove of family letters and memories of elderly relatives who have long been haunted by the tale. She lives near San Francisco and can be found online at www.adriennemcdonnell.com

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