Gloria was a bright, beautiful and artistic girl who nonetheless suffered from crippling bouts of depression. In her early twenties, she died under mysterious circumstances, during a diving trip with her friend and spiritual sister, Christie. Since then, her father, Alfred, has wandered his house and garden in a haze, debilitated by both his daughter’s departure and Parkinson’s disease, as his wife, Ann, struggles to care for him.
Although Alfred Neven DuMont is a media giant in his home country of Germany, he’s a relative unknown in the United States, and The Diver is his first work to receive an English translation. It’s ironic that the author, a man in his eighties, struggles with the elderly Alfred before finding a rich, convincing voice in twentysomething Christie, who returns to her hometown two years after the fateful dive to reveal the details of Gloria’s final days. While reading her diary to Alfred and her mother, Lena, Christie retells the hardships of her adoption and adolescence, and talks of the revelation that was life with Gloria.
It’s precisely at this point that the novel picks up steam, finding room for several life stories of vivid sensuality, Technicolor highs and crushing lows in its remaining 150 pages. While the dialogue occasionally suffers from being overly theatrical, the exposition is consistently stunning, rendering everything from dreary bedrooms to undersea jungles with incredible clarity. The first act may lurch, but the remainder of the book is some of the most satisfying and engaging prose you’re likely to read for some time.