The Doctor & the Diva – Adrienne McDonnell

It is the early 1900s and this book opens in Boston, America. Erika is an opera singer, beautiful in looks with a voice to match. She seems to have two ambitions to sing in Italy and to become a mother. Both are evading her. For many years she has been unsuccessful in getting pregnant, visits to numerous doctors have all been unsuccessful. That is until Dr Ravell enters her and Peter her husband’s life.

The ramifications of Dr Ravell becoming part of this couples life reverberate out over many pages and through many years and across many seas and lands. Where others have failed Dr Ravell succeeds in what Erika and Peter want. Sadly though, it is not meant to be and so Erika turns her life back to escaping to Italy to pursue her other long held dream.

In the meantime Dr Ravell’s reputation suddenly becomes tarnished and he takes himself off to the Caribbean to run a plantation for a friend. He is now away from anything to do with helping couples conceive and he can find solace in the rich landscape of Trinidad, beautifully described by the author. Peter is determined to be a father and follows Dr Ravell out there, bringing his wife with him – if at first you don’t succeed, try again seems to be Peter’s motto.

All the time though Erika is still yearning to be in Italy. Her chance does come in this novel, suddenly the desperation to achieve one of the two ambitions Erika wanted is at the cost and detriment to the other. Erika goes to Italy. Peter is left behind and Dr Ravell, is no longer part of their lives.

As the book goes on, as the years move forward it is to be inevitable that all three shall meet again in some way. Their character’s have developed and moved on, they have tragedies and battles to fight and they have to all decide if the decisions they make are the right ones. Each one has their reason for their action and it is this which will either join or divide the reader ultimately in what they think of the book. For me it left me rather undecided. This is a wonderfully descriptive book of the landscapes, the journeys, the sights, the locals of the area but the three main characters did not stand out enough for me. I am sure there was more to be learn about Dr Ravell, I did not think his infatuation with Erika was obvious, I felt I had missed it. Peter’s arrogance whilst driving me mad, suddenly lost impetus at times. Erika’s ultimate decision was rather cowardly and then her actions after she returns from Italy are somewhat unbelievable and she yet again lets go of something precious. Would she really have lost everything for a second time?

I acknowledge that this is a début novel, and such it is good. I enjoyed the historical setting, the research and information about obstetrics was interesting and as I have mentioned the descriptions were clear and it took you away to these places, the snow of Boston, the heat of Trinidad, the ruins of Italy but for me the characters are where it let it down.  Still worth a read, but the drama will not keep you gripped enough.