review

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

divorce papersThe Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Broadway Books, November 2014

Disclosure: I received a review copy via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

The Divorce Papers is a novel in the form of a legal file for a bitter divorce between a wealthy couple in a fictional state very much like Massachusetts. Sophie Diehl is a young criminal lawyer roped into doing her first divorce case, and a very high-stakes one at that. Besides the legal file, we are also privy to her email correspondence with her best friend, an aspiring actress, as well as quite a bit of correspondence relating to human resources issues going on within her law firm. It’s an epistolary novel that breaks its own rules a bit: it’s more than just the case file. And also rest assured that the legal writing is not nearly as dry as it would be in real life.

I am very glad that this is a book with emotional heft, which I was not expecting at the outset. Rieger is very smart about the effect of divorce on children both in the throes of divorce and as they grow up. There are a couple aspects of the storytelling that niggled at me: Rieger’s writing of crucial legal opinions that were part of the file were just not realistic (the statements of fact felt very novelistic), and the characters bringing up so many literary allusions felt like the author stretching a bit to give this story more weight. It’s strange to call a divorce story an enjoyable read, but that’s my conclusion.

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11 thoughts on “The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

  1. It does sound interesting, Rebecca. I know what you mean, too, about the emotional weight a novel can carry. I’m glad you liked this one as much as you did, and I do like the idea of telling the story in a different way (i.e. not just through narrative and dialogue).

    1. I don’t think I’ve read a novel-in-letters before though I know that plenty of old examples exist.I’ll have to look around and see if there are any contemporary examples that sound familiar: it is a nice change.

      1. Understood! I understand the need to distance yourself from work in your down time, and other times I’m curious about lawyers in fiction vs. lawyers in real life. It was an interesting read, though. Best wishes in the new year, Bill.

  2. Interesting. I kind of have the same feeling about reading about divorce, although my divorce (1st marriage) was eons ago. Amicable but still painful. This book does sound good, although much longer than I would have imagined.

    1. It is a frothy cover for a painful story, and I can understand why you want to avoid the book. I included it on the blog for a little variety because I don’t just read crime.

      1. I did notice that the cover would have turned me off from the beginning, but I try not to be judgmental about covers. After all, sometimes the author has little or no say. And I nearly missed reading Jane Haddam’s books because I thought they were cozies based on the covers.

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