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The Divorce Papers

A Novel : From the Files of Sophie Diehl

Rieger, Susan, 1946-

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
The Divorce Papers
Print
"The story of a high-profile, messy divorce, and the endearingly cynical young lawyer dragooned into handling it, told solely via personal correspondence, office memos, emails, articles, and legal papers"--
Publisher: New York :, Crown Publishers,, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780804137447
0804137447
Branch Call Number: FIC R
Characteristics: 461 pages ; 25 cm

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Comment by: BCD2013 May 06, 2014

A darkly comic epistolary novel stuffed with emails, letters, legal memos and handwritten notes follows a messy divorce through the eyes of young law associate Sophie Diehl, who represents the wife in the case, while simultaneously dealing with office politics and her own not-so-successful romant... Read More »


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Feb 27, 2015
  • LT rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Intelligent and entertaining.

Feb 04, 2015
  • jmikesmith rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

The format of this debut novel by lawyer Susan Rieger is the hook. The story is about a wealthy couple in the fictional state of Narragansett going through a mildly nasty divorce. The format is all the correspondence involving the wife's lawyer, Sophie Diehl. It includes excerpts from relevant legislation, internal law firm memos, court submissions, and personal letters. The book also includes a few sub-plots in the form of personal e-mail messages and letters between Sophie and her friends and family members.

I know I've read novels that were presented as the narrator's memoir or diary. And I've read stories that included correspondence. But I can't recall a book that was entirely composed of letters, memos, and e-mails. It's set in 1999, when the World Wide Web was still sort of new, so the law firm still does much of its official writing as paper memos. E-mail is used more for informal communication. The wife tends to write letters by hand. The books uses a variety of fonts and "stationery" to set off the different pieces of writing.

Rieger does a good job of presenting a coherent narrative, but the book loses steam on a few counts. First, reading legal documents is not exciting. The legal lingo is kept to a minimum, but it's still like reading a will or real estate contract. There is no colour or intensity in the official correspondence. Second, most of the interesting action takes place off stage. Sophie has a romantic sub-plot, but her dates are all described in post-event e-mails to her best friend. We're getting the details second-hand, as it were. The wife and her soon-to-be ex-husband have a few fights, but we only learn about them a day or so after they happen (every single letter and e-mail is dated) when she describes them to Sophie. Third, the core divorce story isn't really that gripping. There's an attempt to add some suspense through unusual behaviour of the couple's 11-year-old daughter, but it never comes close to page-turning tension. There are a few sub-plots, including Sophie's love life, some law office politics, and Sophie's parental issues, but they're all fairly conventional.

It's implied that Sophie has gone through some personal growth, but it's hard to tell from her correspondence. In the end, this novel is skilfully constructed, but doesn't have much emotional pull.

Jul 04, 2014
  • megaculpa rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

An interesting case study of a divorce, particularly the legal and financial aspects. This might also have been a good novel, if the author had focused on the divorcing family. Instead, she stuffed the book with distracting sub-plots about the lawyer -- a twenty-something woman, struggling to come to grips with her family, office politics and boyfriend. Too bad. It didn't have to be chick-lit. .

A darkly comic epistolary novel stuffed with emails, letters, legal memos and handwritten notes follows a messy divorce through the eyes of young law associate Sophie Diehl, who represents the wife in the case, while simultaneously dealing with office politics and her own not-so-successful romantic life.

Mar 21, 2014
  • mombrarian rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Loved it! Highbrow chick-lit. The feel of this book: a Bridget Jones type grows up, gets rich, gets dumped, gets bitter and wants revenge while her quirky, young lawyer cleans up the big mess despite problems and drama of her own. Told entirely through memos, legal articles, reports, letters and emails which makes it a fast, breezy, page-turner. A fun look at wealth and angst in New York.

Feb 27, 2014
  • tegan rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This novel is not an ordinary read: it is composed entirely of emails, memos, law excerpts and letters. The unfolding of the story follows a couple getting a divorce, but the focus of the story is really on Sophie, a lawyer at the law firm that handles the divorce. I found that some of the case law excerpts were a bit boring, but as a whole I really liked the structure. It reminded me a bit of Where'd you go Bernadette. If you are addicted to The Good Wife, you will probably like it too.

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