I received a copy of The Diver and The Lover from the publisher. The decision to read and to take part in this blog tour is my own and this review forms my honest opinion.
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.
I was instantly intrigued by the concept for The Diver and The Lover as I enjoy novels which pull on true events throughout history, especially when it’s based around something I know little about, as is the case here.
The novel is inspired by the author’s love of Dali’s painting, ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ which was painted in 1951. The model for the painting was Russell Saunders, a Hollywood stuntman, and to pose, he was hung from a gantry in Dali’s studio so that the artist could study the pull of gravity on his body. The novel suggests that the stuntman had in fact refused and a replacement was found in a young American waiter, whom one of the central characters, Ginny has formed a friendship with. Ginny and her sister, Meredith – a troubled woman suffering with severe mental health issues – are travelling in Spain, and the group soon become embroiled with the artist, his painting and the simmering tensions within 1950s Spain.
It truly is a fascinating concept, and I found The Diver and The Lover to be an enjoyable read. For me, the character of Meredith was the highlight. Her backstory and struggles with her mental health was an engaging read, and I’ll admit to being far more invested in the relationship between the sisters than the one forming between Ginny and Adam. In terms of the historical aspect, I was inspired to do some of my own research after reading and in Googling, I didn’t find any evidence of Saunders not being the model for the painting, and so I presume that much of the novel was in fact pure fiction. I did find myself wondering if any of the fiction was based on any truths, or even gossip surrounding the painting and I would have liked to have seen a post-novel note delving into this a little more, essentially because I am nosy but also because I like to understand where the line between fact and fiction is when a novel claims to be inspired by real events (I read an advance copy – so this may well have been added to the finished version!)
A novel I initially struggled to get into, although I thoroughly enjoyed the latter parts. I appreciated the fast pace of events towards the end, and the heart felt epilogue tied everything together beautifully. An enjoyable read for whiling away a lazy afternoon, ‘The Diver and the Lover‘ offers a compelling fictional tale behind the creation of Dali’s famous painting