Cover Image: The Divines

The Divines

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Member Reviews

The Divines takes you a journey between Josephine's (Joe)  adult life and the memories of her days in boarding school. The book opens with her physically seeing her boarding school for the first time in many years. From there the author writes reality vs. perception brilliantly.  The memories and versions of the past that these characters create or recall are to protect themselves from trauma, the trauma they experienced and at times the trauma they were responsible for. 

We follow the main character in her adult life as she becomes obsessed with the past. It consumes her thoughts and memories leading her to endless hours of internet searching. The story follows her unpacking what she thought happened, her interactions at the end of the book during two events help unpack some of the emotional baggage Joe carries around. 

For the most part I enjoyed the book, I feel like it ended abruptly, there could have been a little more substance. I needed a little more closure from the book, it felt to open ended and a little messy. I give this 3.5 stars.
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For some reason, boarding school books really appealnto me. This novel had characters that were flawed but absolutely fascinating. I loved reading of the school traditions, the angst of female teen friendships, and the conflicts between town and school. There was an element of suspense. Al was explained at the end. 

A true page turner!
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC of The Divines. I was very excited to read this, but unfortunately I did not enjoy it.   The main character, Josephine goes from present day to the 1990’s when she attended a British boarding school, Most of the girls at the boarding school were presented as mean girls with constant bullying and destructive.  I felt like the ending fell flat for me.
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The Divines is a very intriguing debut novel about a woman in her 30s who starts to unravel her memories of a traumatic event that happened at her English boarding school. This book definitely fits into the "dark academia" category, but I thought the character development was higher quality than a lot of similar books I have read. 

The book has a focus on privilege; how we perceive our privilege growing up and also how that impacts us as adults, that kept me thinking for days after I read it. I recommend this to anyone who likes "dark" books - think Gillian Flynn meets Secret History.
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Teenage girls can be mean and ruthless, as illustrated by this group at their private school St John the Divine.  In this coming of age novel, the girls get up to all the usual antics, gossip, sex, smoking, but then there is a scandal that ends up closing the school.  Years later, Jo replays memories of the time and obsesses on how what they did at the time has far reaching effects into their adult lives.  While compelling, I had a hard time liking any of the characters.
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3.5 Complex Boarding School Stars

This complex story is difficult to categorize, it’s a bit coming-of-age, escaping the past, and with a bit of a mystery thrown in. This debut novel really got me thinking about perception and reality and how we reconcile ourselves with the past.

There are two storylines, one is set at a boarding school in England, St. John the Divine, and features the privileged girls who are students and call themselves The Divines. There is a long history and legacy with mothers and grandmothers attending the school as well. This storyline was a bit uncomfortable to read, there is the rivalry with the Townies, the level of cruelty between the girls, and the lack of discipline from the teachers. There is definitely a hierarchy at the school and the author builds a bit of mystery around events that happened. Josephine, or Joe, is the main character. It was interesting that all the girls had nicknames that were boys’ names and had perfected the flip of hair that marked them as Divine. Joe seems to feel like she was frequently left out of things at school, especially when she had a roommate who was outside the circle of popular girls.

The other storyline is set in Los Angeles, 15 years later, and more about Joe trying to make sense of her school years now that she is a wife and mother. The past seems to be haunting her present self and she ends up at a school reunion confronting many of the perceptions she has about her school years. She seems to remember herself and events differently than the other women. 

At the end of the book, I was left wondering if you can really change? Can you make up for things you’ve done in your past or can some things never be forgiven? While I didn’t like Josephine, she was an interesting character!
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I was excited to begin this highly anticipated literary fiction novel, and this read just completely enthralled me and I couldn't put it down. It's set in present-day LA with flashbacks to a British boarding school in the '90s and this coming of age novel explores the destructive relationships between teenage girls. In the flashback, the girls of the elite St. John boarding school are notorious for pushing boundaries, their sharp tongues, and chasing boys. Now in her thirties, Josephine hasn't spoken to any of her former peers in fifteen years ever since the school closed in the wake of a mysterious scandal. During her honeymoon, she takes a detour to the old school grounds, which brings up all sorts of memories of that time and the horrid things they got away with. This visit provokes all sorts of recollections about the school's final weeks, leading up to the big scandal, and her violet secret at its center. As she remembers more and more, her life, her sense of self, and her marriage all crumble around her.  This book is full of rich, exciting language that draws you in. Josephine has such an intriguing first-person point of view and voice. It has such a compelling tone, and it gets so engaging that makes this read hard to put down.
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This coming of age boarding school suspense dives into the world of the right of passage from young adult to adulthood through sex, secrets, lies, and drama! This is one of those reads where it brings you back to your childhood ways frozen in time where you thought that is where your life was at it's prime before you settled down into everyday existence. Jo is the main character and start with adulthood to then looking back focusing most of the book in her past. Haunted by her past Jo returns to where it all began for her, bridging the gap into becoming a woman. This is a compelling self-discovery read, and the "Divines" that make us and break us at the same time. Everyone at some point either had a "click" or wanted to be apart of an infamous one in their time, but what was the cost to the lies, secrets, drama, and addiction to the dark ways of teenage girls. The rich kids always have so much suspenseful privileged scandals to pry open. I liked the whole Townies and Divines rivalry, made it feel a little like a modern day boarding school Grease! Overall it was a great read! Thank you Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book!
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How does who we were in our past impact how we move through our lives? How much of what we remember is really what happened — or merely a story our brains have weaved to help us cope with moments in our past that inevitably shape who we are? These are questions that surface while reading @ellie.m.eaton’s debut novel, #TheDivines.

Josephine (Jo) is an unlikely and unlikeable protagonist. She’s a woman so wrapped in her past at a boarding school and member of ‘The Divine’ click, she barely seems present in her current life. The novel jumps between current day and Jo’s new marriage and motherhood, back to scenes from her past with The Divines that were pivotal in shaping what occupies much of her current attention. She holds onto relics of the past, constantly ‘stalks’ her fellow classmates to see how their lives have shaped-up, and seems unnaturally obsessed with a wrong she feels she committed against her dorm-mate — who happened to be the unfortunate target of all the mean girls in school. 

Eaton does a great job of describing just how impossible it is to fit into a clique as a teenager — and how so much of our lives are spent in our heads. Can we fully be present, when we’re constantly digesting all we’ve been through? This is a question that will keep resurfacing as you read the book. Eaton’s ‘Divines’ has made just about every ‘Notable Books for 2021’ — and there’s a reason. Don’t expect a beach read, but if you enjoy reading books that make you dig deep into your own coming-of-age experiences — this is one you’ll enjoy.
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The Divines was basically a train wreck that I couldn't look away from. All of the characters were detestable, their morals were questionable, their attitudes were horrendous, their behavior was deplorable... and yet, I could not look away. 

We follow Jo/Sephine/Josephine throughout the story, alternating between her time as a "Divine"  teenager at St. John the Divine school, and also as a thirty-something year old who can't quite seem to forget her past. I do have to say I was very much more involved with the scenarios where Jo was in school than as an adult. Her adult character seemed too brooding and morose for my liking, and she seemed like a very spoiled, bratty woman. 

This novel was full of secrets, lies, and dark themes that tend to pull me in and hook me to a story. My only issue with this novel was that the ending seemed... unfinished? rushed? incomplete.

I do not feel like the ending wrapped up anything that happened between Jo and Lauren. I wish there would have been more closure with that. I wish that (although it's not in the ending) there was more of an importance to the relationship with Stuart. It felt kind of rushed and anti-climactic after the build up to the... well, we'll call it the main event in their... relationship? 

I also felt like the "scandal" that this book promises was really not much of a scandal at all, and was actually quite passed over. For being the main focus of this book, it seemed to have a very small part in the story. It was basically described in a portion of one chapter and referenced several times prior to the event actually happening. I was pretty let down with how the entire thing played out, that there wasn't more of a history behind what led up to the "scandal." (I also think "scandal" is the wrong word, because "scandal" makes me think of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and that is not even close to what happens here.)

Anyway, aside from some things I wish were different, I did quite enjoy this book. 4 stars, I can see this being a popular book of 2021.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the review copy.
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I’m not quite sure how to describe the tone or mood of this book. It focuses on protagonist Josephine at two points in her life - in the mid to late 90s at a boarding school in England and later as a recently married woman navigating the world. The girls she attending boarding school with (nicknamed Divines after the school’s name - St. John of the Divine) are mean and snobby and treat each other, the school staff, and the residents of the town in which they are located pretty terribly. Josephine (called Joe then, because for some reason Divines have a tradition of using male names), spends her last year at the school kind of on the outside of things, assigned to room with a girl no one likes (who seems a little abrasive but honestly pretty much fine), befriending a townie girl named Lauren, and developing a crush on Lauren’s older brother, who works at the school. One of the things that I thought was handled really effectively here was the concept that how you remember yourself in the past may be completely different than how others saw you. Joe (who goes by Sephine after leaving school) saw herself as an awkward semi-outcast, and she did all kinds of mean and generally distasteful things to try to fit in, but others saw her as a leader, that cool girl that people are terrified of. All of this comes out when she starts thinking about school in advance of a reunion and after she goes to visit the old school site on a honeymoon road trip and a townie spits on her for being a former Divine. Overall I found this sad but fairly compelling, told with a tone of cool detachment.
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I didn’t have much expectations for this one. It was a good drama story. I kind of thought there’d be a huge twist. But i was not expecting the ending. I feel like this was a story expressing how stressful school and your peers can be and how hugely things in childhood can impact your life. I felt bad for the main character. She felt traumatized by what happened at her school and it largely impacted her & if the adults would have been more forthcoming with information her life may have been different. It shows how much privilege can effect a person. The people in this story were so self involved that they didn’t see outside of themselves. And cared too much what others thought. I feel like this was a coming of age story. I wasn’t quite sure what the main point of the story was honestly.
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The Divines presents a cross-section of life at an all-girls British boarding school: choc full of snobbery, entitlement, and far too much emphasis on social hierarchy. At the heart of the narrative we find a somewhat vague school scandal involving bullying and alienation, but the vast majority of this book was limited to a prolonged hunt to track down the anonymous fellow peppering Polaroids of his “jaunty erection”around campus and girls sneaking away to chain-smoke contraband cigarettes. While I did enjoy the general narrative voice (one that effectively communicated an air of teenage arrogance and self-obsession), I felt as if this book lacked substance... and for this reason, it didn’t hold my attention or leave me feeling intrigued. There was a bit of a surprise ending, to which I think the author did instill a nice sense of dissonance and guilt, but overall I found the “twist” to be underwhelming. I think the most interesting element of the story was the focus (in the final chapters) on how memories of a shared past can vary so widely person by person, but even this I felt like the author could and should have explored more in-depth. I’m between a 2 and 3 star rating on this one, but lean towards 3 stars based on some moments of notable descriptive imagery.
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The Divines is one of those books that somehow manages to be incredibly compelling without being the least bit likable. 

Our anti-hero Josephine has a fascinating inner life, though the reader can’t hope to warm up to her even by the end of the novel, which I suppose is part of the point of the book. 

If you’re a reader who needs your main character to Learn Something, you’ll be mostly out of luck here. Years into the future, Jo has learned little and understands even less about her past. 

She mentions something called Boarding School Syndrome, which really might apply to anyone who was bullied in school (of the boarding variety or not). Josephine thinks herself a victim of this, which makes some sense, except that she was far from a true victim as a student. In a world of Have and Have Nots, she was firmly on the Have end of things.

Her misguided perceptions of herself—even years after the fact—make for a perfectly wrought portrait of a woman who still lacks self awareness and any ability to place herself in the proverbial shoes of another. She’s shocked to hear about the way others thought of her when she was a Divine. 

Her own insecurities back then prevented her from realizing she actually had it pretty good. And those same insecurities—still present many years later because she never addressed them—leave her shocked by others’ perceptions of her past self and even more shocked at how her peers seem to have rewritten their own histories to cast a more favorable light on them. 

Because of that, the book becomes more than just a boarding school novel, and ends up being an interesting meditation on truth. What’s more true than the stories we tell ourselves—real or invented—about the past? What happens when our truths conflict with others’? 

It’s a fascinating exploration of how we self-protect, —even from afar—when it comes to our own histories. 

Audiobook: I don’t particularly recommend going this route for this book. The format is fine for the subject matter, but the narrator seems to really struggle to differentiate the voices for different characters, compensating by making almost everyone who might be irritating or problematic for the protagonist sound like an unintelligent male. Fat Fran and Geri get this treatment nearly all the time, and Skipper, Rod, and Lauren all meander into it more often than not. It makes for a poor performance.
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I read this book without knowing what it was about. It was very well written and kept you interested until the last page. The story follows Josephine in present day and when she was a divine in boarding school
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I found this book very interesting. The idea of an elite all female school where a tragedy happens in the past is an interesting idea. I thought the characters were great and had a lot of personality to them.
I do wish the story line just had a little more thrill to it
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Compulsively readable is right!  Wow, what a captivating read!  It reminds me a touch of “Catherine House,” in the way that the teenage female psyche is the driving force in the private school setting .  EXCELLENT so far!  I read the first third in one sitting, which is a high honor for a book in my reading life!

Now that I’ve finished:  I found this to be such a bold, irreverent and shockingly brash tale of teenage school life.  I seriously could not put this one down.  It challenged me, it scared me a bit.  I wanted to look away, but I could not.  Well done, thought provoking, original!  A big yes for this reader!
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What a thought provoking story.   After a rude encounter in the town where she attended boarding school, Joesephine starts for ruminate on her time at St. John the Divine.  The Divines are entitled, rule breaking mean girls who think they are better than the locals.  IThe characters are very realistic and bring you back to the angst and pressures of being a teenage girl.  

Thank you Ellie Eaton, William Morrow and Netgalley for thie chance to review this book.
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The Divines is a coming of age story.  It alternates between Joe (Joesehine) as a young woman at boarding school and as she begins her marriage and "adult life". We get glimpses into who and what Joe thought she was as a young person. As with many teenagers she didn't hold herself in high regard.  This view of her younger self is thrown into contrast when she runs into former boarding school classmates.  Joe is focused on a girl, Gerry, who was injured during their last year of school.  Joe can't seem to part with the past until she finds out the truth of what happened to Gerry.  As Joe turns more and more to her past it has repercussions on her current life.  An interesting read it thought I felt the ending fell a little flat.
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The Divines is a coming-of-age novel that explores the toxic teenage female friendships at a secluded boarding school just before it gets shut down. The story is told through dual-timelines from the perspective of Josephine (Jo) who attended the school in the 90s. There is also a present day timeline in LA where we see how Jo’s time in boarding school affected her adulthood in way of obsession. There is a mean girl, bullying layer to the story that I quite enjoyed on top of the classic insecure, trying to fit in storyline that coming-of-age novels often have. The story is intriguing with solid writing. If you enjoyed Emma Cline's The Girls, this might be for you!
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