There are some things that enrich my life beyond all expectation or proportion: baths, bike rides, sex, and let me say it now: Margaret Laurence. I’ve long suspected she might be my favourite author (despite my discomfort with A Jest of God, I loved the book; The Stone Angel is near perfect in its characterization of Hagar), but on (re)reading The Diviners I’m ready to settle the matter: Margaret Laurence is my favourite.
I don’t mean to suggest she’s the best author out there (let’s leave conversations of ‘best’ to another day), but when reading her books I feel uncanny feelings. I feel like maybe my fears and hopes and expectations for life have been somehow borrowed from a Laurence novel; put another way, I wonder whether Laurence doesn’t anticipate and – perfectly – describe my feelings through her beautiful and flawed protagonists.
You’re thinking, yes, but in A Jest of God, Rachel is nothing but a simpering pathetic woman who longs for sexual realization, freedom and above all the “strength of conviction,” and in The Diviners Morag seems to embody this very strength (often describing her own strength, vivid in her eyes, and making difficult decisions that no doubt call upon this certain kind of strength). I do wonder though whether Morag’s strength isn’t a kind of yearning too, a recognition of “what means ‘strength of conviction’” and a realization that she doesn’t quite have it (though Christie does, and Jules, too). Maybe I most identify with and admire this yearning, and this imitable belief that you might – but haven’t yet – take what you believe you deserve, or brave enough to be the person you believe yourself to be. Admire yes, but find heart-breaking, too. The recognition that sometimes/often women do not find the strength of their conviction, do not find their strength at all. So when I find myself crying (sobbing) at the end of another Laurence novel, I say thanks to Laurence: thanks for recognizing in me (and presumably in countless others) the yearning and the nascent strength and for giving us characters who both do and do not meet their own expectations.
(If you haven’t yet read anything by Laurence I demand that you go out and do so now. Even if you are not a young woman. Or an artist. Or a mother or father. Or a… She’ll still shine a light into your
soul, heart, mind , a light into you. Read. Oh, read.)