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The Divorcees

"Set on a divorce ranch in 1950s America, this remarkable debut unpacks female friendship, charisma, patriarchal constraints, and the desire for freedom with tinderbox tingles and thought-provoking punch."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Set in Reno, Nevada, in 1951, back when the casino city was known for its liberal divorce laws at a time when divorce was all-but impossible, Rowan Beaird’s The Divorcees casts a captivating, menacing spell. Delicately characterful, and sharp as a shard of ice in a martini cocktail, it balances loss and longing, in limbo stasis, and the awakenings of desire and a new sense of self through an intoxicating story that takes unexpected turns. 

Lois has come to exclusive Golden Yarrow to find freedom from a lonely, loveless marriage. Staying here for six weeks as a resident of the state of Nevada means she can be legally granted divorce. While this is something Lois needs and longs for, her post-divorce future is uncertain: “She hated being a wife, was terrified of becoming a mother, but couldn’t stomach the idea of once again being only a daughter. Each role an ill-fitting dress.” Such was women’s lot — utterly dependent on men, with the “freedom” of divorce leaving divorcees tainted and moneyless i.e. providing no kind of freedom at all.

As Lois and the other women spend their days riding horses or lying by the pool, and their evenings in bars or casinos, a charismatic new arrival, Greer, shakes things up, especially for Lois. Greer arrives bruised, but beautiful and bold, telling the women they can “do whatever you want”.

As Greer and Lois come to “speak with the casual intensity of sisters”, and Lois’ post-divorce options feel increasingly unbearable (what do you do when your rich daddy pretty much sides with your rich ex-husband-to-be and it looks like you’ll be forced to re-marry?), Lois is convinced to take more drastic measures.

There’s boldness and betrayal. Fresh awakenings and recovery. Grit and glamour. The Divorcees is nothing but tense and tantalisingly stirring.

Joanne Owen

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