THE DEVLIN DIARY

Christi Phillips

 London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II’s court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city’s poor.

But Hannah has a special knowledge that Secretary of State Lord Arlington desperately needs. At the king’s Machiavellian court, Hannah attracts the attention of two men,

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 London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II’s court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city’s poor.

But Hannah has a special knowledge that Secretary of State Lord Arlington desperately needs. At the king’s Machiavellian court, Hannah attracts the attention of two men, charming courtier Ralph Montagu and anatomist Dr. Edward Strathern, as well as the attention of the powerful College of Physicians, which views her work as criminal. When two influential courtiers are found brutally murdered, their bodies inscribed with arcane symbols, Hannah is drawn into a dangerous investigation by Dr. Strathern, who believes the murders conceal a far-reaching conspiracy that may include Hannah’s late father and the king himself.

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan’s dream come true — until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor’s unsolved murder is a seventeenthcentury diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress. With help from the eclectic collections of Cambridge’s renowned libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London’s dark past and Cambridge’s equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today….

A suspenseful and richly satisfying tale brimming with sharply observed historical detail, The Devlin Diary brings past and present to vivid life. With wit and grace, Christi Phillips holds readers spellbound with an extraordinary novel of secrets, obsession, and the haunting power of the past.

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  • Pocket Books
  • Paperback
  • April 2010
  • 384 Pages
  • 9781416527404

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About Christi Phillips

Christi Phillips is the author of The Rossetti Letter, which has been translated into six foreign languages. Her research combines a few of her favorite things: old books, libraries, and travel. When she’s not rummaging around in an archive or exploring the historic heart of a European city, she lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is at work on her next novel, set in France.

Praise

“Phillips’s command of period detail and her sure touch with emotional relationships help make this a standout.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Intricate, intriguing, The Devlin Diary is deliciously absorbing. Read it obsessively — it’s a story that will wrap you in laughter and tears.”
Perri O’Shaughnessy, New York Times bestselling author

“Lyrically written, The Devlin Diary introduces two of the most witty, gifted, and resourceful heroines you will find between the covers of one book.” 
Stephanie Cowell, author of Marrying Mozart

“This engrossing tale might have been a page turner for me except that I found myself lingering on every fascinating period detail Christi Phillips lavished on this first-class historical mystery.”
Anne Easter Smith, author of The King’s Grace

Discussion Questions

What is your first impression of Claire Donovan? What did you think of Andrew Kent at the beginning of the novel? How did your feelings about these characters change throughout the story? What were major turning points for you?

The Devlin Diary has two major settings: the court of Charles II and present-day Trinity College, Cambridge. Each of these places has unique characteristics, yet they share a few similarities. How are these two communities similar and how are they different?

Claire Donovan and Hannah Devlin are both strong women in predominantly male cultures. How does each woman approach difficult or delicate situations throughout the book? Compare and contrast Claire’s and Hannah’s situations and personalities. Which female character did you relate to more? Why?

What motivates Hannah Devlin to step beyond the circumscribed role of a respectable woman in seventeenth-century London society? What does Hannah appear to sacrifice by flouting society’s conventions?

Lord Arlington tells Hannah “You are a woman, after all” and Hannah thinks “A woman, after all. Something inferior to man is his implication – what all men imply when they speak of the ‘weaker’ sex, the ‘gentler’ sex, a woman’s ‘modesty’.”  Do you believe that either Claire or Hannah is a feminist? Why or why not? What does it mean to be a feminist?

Many of the characters in this novel harbor secrets from others and many characters are not entirely honest with themselves. Which characters in both the historical and contemporary stories seem straightforward and at ease with themselves and their desires?

Ralph Montagu and Edward Strathern , two very different male characters, are attracted to Hannah Devlin. Do the same aspects of Hannah’s character attract each man? How did your opinion of each man change during the course of the novel?

What is the role of Theophilus Ravenscroft in the novel? Do you believe the author inserted him in the historical story merely to provide some comic relief? Does he have a counterpart in the contemporary story?

How is Colbert de Croissy, the French ambassador, different from the English courtiers at King Charles’s court? What differences between French and English cultures during the late seventeenth-century do you infer from the novel?

How does the author use language and imagery to bring the characters to life? Did the novel’s characters or style remind you of another novel in any way?

Several characters during the course of the novel seem to have ulterior motives or act oddly. “Odd is simply odd – anyone can see it. Or, at least, most people can see it, if they’re paying attention.”  Claire points out that Andrew Kent does not seem to have the ability to notice when someone is acting oddly. Do you believe that women have this innate ability more often then men?

Whose story is The Devlin Diary? If you had to pick one, is it Claire’s story or is it Hannah’s? Why? Who changes the most from the beginning to the end?

How did this book touch your life? Did it inspire you to do or learn something new?