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The Great Divorce (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

Valerie Martin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Three surprising women, their lives riven by divorce both literal and metaphorical: Ellen Clayton, reeling from her husband’s decision to leave her after twenty years, finds meaning in caring for her teenage daughters and in her work as the veterinarian at the New Orleans Zoo. Her young assistant Camille, preyed on by a series of contemptuous men, experiences bizarre episodes in which she feels herself transforming into one of the great cats in her care. And Elisabeth Boyer, a passionate Creole aristocrat trapped on her husband’s antebellum plantation, finds deliverance in the form of a black leopard, a powerful, merciless ally from the wild. Their unfolding stories blur distinctions of time, class and social construct to reveal the ordinary and extraordinary measures required to make our fractured world whole.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in New Orleans, this novel portrays a zoo veterinarian whose 25-year marriage is threatened by her husband's love for both a young secretary and a long-dead Creole woman.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Three interwoven stories make up this eminently readable and well-written novel by the author of Mary Reilly ( LJ 1/90). Ellen, a zoo veterinarian, is trying to cope with both a mysterious outbreak of illness among the animals and the knowledge that Paul, her historian husband, has fallen in love with a younger woman. Elisabeth, the subject of Paul's researches, is the legendary "cat woman" of Louisiana, who allegedly became a leopard and murdered her abusive husband. Camille, a worker at the zoo who has a seemingly tenuous grasp on reality, has frightening fantasies that she is becoming one of the great cats she works with at the zoo. The story's only weakness is that the cause of Camille's initial breakdown is never made clear. However, this is a very satisfying novel with well-drawn, sympathetic female characters. Highly recommended for public libraries of all sizes. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/93.
- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2724 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375727183
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 23, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,011 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensually Profound November 6, 2000
By A Customer
Sexy, absorbing and insightful, Valerie Martin's novel The Great Divorce (following her acclaimed Mary Reilly), explores the struggle for power between men and women, nature and civilization, in three mesmerizing tales of very different women whose lives are unraveling.
Ellen Clayton, the vet at the New Orleans Zoo, tries to hold on after her faithless husband of 20 years leaves her for his young secretary. Camille, lonely and depressed, looks after the big cats at the zoo and fantasizes about relationships with sexually and emotionally abusive men.
Juxtaposed with the contemporary stories of Ellen and Camille is the gothic tale of Elisabeth Boyer, the Catwoman, a Creole beauty in antebellum New Orleans who was hanged for murdering her sadistic husband.
Martin fuses these stories of betrayal into a compelling narrative about human nature, passion and animal instinct, evoking the New Orleans of both centuries with equal clarity.
Imaginative and profound, The Great Divorce is a great read that tackles important issues without sentimentality. Despite the inherent sadness and futility that Ellen, Camille and Elisabeth confront, the novel offers a note of hope. 'I think,' Ellen tells her daughter when a young jaguar at the zoo survives an illness, 'this time we win.'
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HAUNTING AND MESMERIZING May 17, 2000
By A Customer
Why isn't Valerie Martin better known? Her work is absolutely dazzling. "The Great Divorce" manages to sustain a level of enjoyably creepy menace from first page to last. It weaves together the stories of three couples, all of whom end up parted in different ways. Each of these stories symbolizes the conflict between man and nature, and each gives us a preview of a different resolution to that conflict. We can part from nature amicably, we can kill it with our indifference to it, or we can be killed by its vengeance against us. This may sound heavy-handed in my telling of it, but it is far from heavy-handed in Martin's telling. The book is a work of gothic fiction, of horror fiction, of historical fiction, as well as a penetrating study of the way we live today. Martin evokes the steamy milieu of pre-Civil War New Orleans as beautifully and as convincingly as she evokes the Crescent City of today. Her language is sinuous and seductive. It has the sleek, sudden power of a jungle cat. And her storytelling skills are masterful. It is shameful that this beautiful book is already out of print. Do yourself a favor and find a used copy. You won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cunning and readable New Orleans gothic June 23, 2013
Do you ever decide to read a book on the sole criteria that it relates to some subject matter you are currently obsessed with? That’s more or less how I came to be reading The Great Divorce: in the wake of a whirlwind weekend in New Orleans that left me with a major jones for more of that feelgood juju. In lieu of gorging myself into obesity on fried oyster po’boys and Sazeracs, I picked this up off a NOLA lit recommendations list that I found on some random website.

The novel follows three women (two modern day and the other in the mid 1900’s) who’s stories parallel and intertwine at various intervals as each heroine’s life unravels. While the book is deeply grounded in traditionally Gothic territories - unflinching descriptions of violence (both psychological and physical), sex, madness, decay, mental illness and murder - it never suffers from the weight of classical flourish or cloying melodrama. Martin’s voice is at once both feminine and modern; one passage describing a character’s inner dialog as she grieves for her crumbling marriage is equally as engaging as a later depiction of a macabre voodoo rite.

This is just one of those books that defies genre. It’s not really horror or chick-lit, even though it went down cheap and easy like a good beach read (albeit a dark, humid, occasionally terrifying beach read). But it left behind cunning ideas about human nature and self imposed cages that have continued to linger in the days since I put it down. Short of getting on a plane (or into an elastic waistband), it was a fast fix that did not disappoint.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Great Divorce December 30, 2011
By Tony
Humanity is divorced from the animal kingdom, women are divorced from men and from their own inner, animal rage.

The novel swaps between three loosely connected stories of women in New Orleans. Camille is a young employee caring for big cats the city zoo, watching as her favourite beast crashes painfully but repeatedly against her cage. Camille also does some sex work on the side. More or less friendless, she struggles for self-esteem under routine psychological blows from her alcoholic mother and from a string of desensitised males. Her openness, her longing for love and respect, expose her, of course, to many casual whallops from life, and she will surely bring out any rescue impulses in the reader. At the same time Camille has momentary but compulsive fantasies of being a wildcat. Anything could happen.

Her sensitivity is surprising, since almost everyone around her is blunted. It could be seen as the result of a childhood spent watching out for the moods of an aggressive parent.

Someone who could potentially help and guide her is the second main character, Ellen, a vet at the zoo, and the mother of a 14 year old girl. But Ellen is sinking into depression as one of her smug husband's affairs gets serious, and, yes, a divorce looms. The smug husband is an historian researching the sensational murder of a C19th southern German slaveowner, whose throat had been torn open. Convicted for the crime was his young wife, Elisabeth, fresh from the French quarter. Elisabeth is the novel's third main protagonist as it slips back now and then to her era.
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