Review: O Love How Deep by Diana Maryon

Published: November 2nd 2011 by WestBow Press
Page count: 536

I’d like to go on record stating that I was given a gratis electronic edition of the book by the author, in exchange for an honest review. There was no bribery involved. At least, not much. I mean, none at all. No. Although you could say the author bribed me to give her a good review by writing a great novel. But a lot of authors have done that to me, and a lot of them came back from the dead to do it. Crafty ilk, writers. I digress.

This book is a story of the choices we make, our decisions and our successes and our failures and how they shape us. But more than anything, it’s a story of love, and fittingly, this review will be about how much I loved it, and also the things I didn’t love about it. In short, I loved it because it felt so real and so vivid, because the characters were genuine people, because it was an emotional and thought-provoking saga of their lives; but it is a very long, very slow read, and it does ramble and wander.

First of all the things I have to say, I have this to say: this book spoke to me, as it will probably speak to you if you are in love, especially if your love life is going through some sort of difficulty. If you’re disillusioned to happy endings and just plain sick of sappy superficial romances that, you know by experience, are farcical fantasies, you’re going to enjoy this book.

The book opens, and it’s the end already: marriage. That is, the marriage between the one you love and someone else. Act I briefly outlines the journal of David Carpenter, the man Diana loved but didn’t marry, and describes what is probably the hardest time of his life: when he loses her. The rest of the story is about Diana and the aftermath of her marriage to another man, its consequences and its rewards. But David’s story that was my favorite, because it was David’s story that was personal, David’s story that touched me. Diana’s story taught me something about David; David’s story taught me something about myself. The passion, the heartbreak, the broken love for the Her in his life, the broken love for God, made dubious and bitter by his wounded heart: . . . it’s real. It’s all poignantly real.

Act I left me hating Diana, hating David a little bit too, hating myself, and generally hating life. Oh, don’t worry, it’s downhill from here, emotionally. Now that you hate Diana for what she did to David, you get to keep hating her for a while with a subconscious self-loathing, because what she is, what she shows you of her innermost thoughts and feelings, are things you will recognize in yourself, sometimes things you will hate in her as much as you hate them in yourself. You get to follow Diana through most of her life, through doubt and angst and failure and mistakes and despair and grief, and it’s all depressing and theologically fatalistic. But by the end of the very long middle act, things begin to look up, ending on a liberating auspice that will finally let you sleep a little easier again. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so I’ll only say this: read through all the aforementioned dismal reality and vivid mediocrity. It’s worth it. Especially if you’re young, it will make you think a little more carefully about your future and choices. But it’s worth it just to follow a ripened Diana through to success, self-discovery, acceptance, release, and evolutional love. It’s worth reading all the way through, because you get to be Diana: you will love her and hate her, as she loves and hates herself, as we all love and hate ourselves.

This is not your average romance, and it is not, by any means, a light read. “‘Tis a tangled yarn, good and ill together,” that. It has many high points, but it’s very discursive, and as I’ve been saying, quite depressing. If you’re looking for something short and cheery that won’t make you think, well, I guess you’re looking in the wrong place. Try television, or suicide (there are certain poetic similarities). You won’t find what you’re looking for in this world.

It’s also long, and slow, very, very, slow. It’s not a page-turner, and it’s certainly not a book you can’t put down. It’s a book you’ll find yourself setting down when you smell dinner burning, and find lying half-forgotten on the bedside table that night. But it’s a book you’ll think about long and hard when you have put it down, and even after you’ve finished it. In this way, it took me about four weeks to read it; at a more leisurely pace it could be read in six to eight weeks, which is what I would ideally recommend. This is a steady, cerebral book, to be digested slowly, page by page; but above all, to be read at your own pace.

By the way, are you an autobiography lover? If the fictional Diana as well as the authorial Diana are to be believed, this book is at least semi-autobiographical, which means it’s based heavily on her own life (as opposed to a novel, which is organically but not intentionally autobiographical). You might enjoy it for that. I’m not much on autobiography myself, but the part-epistolary, part-diaristic style, while not my usual cup of tea, still appealed to me.

Now let’s talk about the cons that kept me from giving “O Love How Deep” that fifth star. Rather “the con” (I really only have one!): there was a heck of a lot of excess detail that was very hard to swallow, weighing down the story. I’m grateful for the footnotes, at least, but they weren’t always there, and sometimes when they were I still needed a footnote to explain the footnote. There were plenty of names and places and events that I had been told about earlier in the book, but by the time they were mentioned again I had forgotten who, where, or what they were. If you’re industrious or scholarly, you might have an easier time keeping up. If not, this might frustrate you. But more casual (read: artistic) readers such as myself won’t have much trouble following the information most relevant to the characters, and just disregarding mention of forgotten details that aren’t necessary to follow the story. And at the same time, they may find it in their hearts (like I did) to enjoy some of Diana’s many asides, which are admittedly often theologically, politically, or spiritually interesting.

But the pros that earned this book its four stars: First, it was emotional. Second, it was cerebral. Third, it was spiritual. Fourth, it was real. Fifth, a good book makes you think, teaches you something, and leaves you changed; consider me thunk, teached, and changeded.

tl;dr: If you don’t like to think, this book isn’t for you. If you don’t like God, or thinking about the consequences of our actions, about sin, or about the transience of mortality, this book isn’t for you. If you like to ignore life and what it means to live and what it means to be human, this book isn’t for you. If you have inexplicable prejudices against Cambridge, Canada, love, heartbreak, choices, ghosts from the past, redemption, honeymooners, married couples, children, amateur psychology, reality, romance, spirituality, emotion, or life, then this book isn’t for you. But if at least, say, five or six of those things please your sweet tooth, sink your teeth into this book and savor.

My evaluation:

four stars

About Diana Maryon: Born on St. Valentine’s Day in 1938, she has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada since 1971. She has been a convinced Christian for over 50 years, and married for nearly as long. She has two moderately grown-up children, and two young grandchildren. Her husband, a distinguished Medievalist and Modern Linguist, had suffered from Parkinson’s for eleven years, and died on July 30th. He is immortalised in O Love How Deep as Simon Rivers.


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