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Review: The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

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The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is at once bizarre, peculiar, and mysterious yet it is strangely readable and it left me wanting to discover more mysteries from this author.

Vendala Vida’s work is new to me and The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is quite different from anything else that I’ve read recently. The book is a bit unique in that it’s written from the second-person point of view which is not all that common. 

Some readers who have reviewed this novel have stated that the second-person narrative was somehow distracting to them.  I didn’t experience any feelings of distraction.  On the contrary, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty was strangely hypnotic in some way, and I was totally sucked into the book almost from the very first page.

My review of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty includes a short synopsis along with my thoughts on the book and whether I thought it was a worthwhile read.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

morocco street scene with lady in blue hijab walking along, with cover of book titled the diver's clothes lie empty

Author Vendela Vida is an award-winning American novelist who, as of now has written six novels.

I picked up The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty because it was the monthly pick in a book club I’m in, otherwise, it’s unlikely I would have ever chosen this book on my own, as this author simply wasn’t on my radar.

Publishers Synopsis of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

In Vendela Vida’s taut and mesmerizing novel of ideas, a woman travels to Casablanca, Morocco, on mysterious business. While checking into her hotel, the woman is robbed of her wallet and passport—all of her money and identification. Though the police investigate, the woman senses an undercurrent of complicity between the hotel staff and the authorities—she knows she’ll never recover her possessions. Stripped of her identity, she feels burdened by the crime yet strangely liberated by her sudden freedom to be anyone she chooses.

A chance encounter with a movie producer leads to a job posing as a stand-in for a well-known film star. The star reels her in deeper, though, and soon she’s inhabiting the actress’s skin off-set, too—going deeper into the Casablanca night and further from herself. And so continues a strange and breathtaking journey full of unexpected turns, an adventure in which the woman finds herself moving further and further away from the person she once was.

Told with vibrant, lush detail and a wicked sense of humor, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is part literary mystery, part psychological thriller—an unforgettable novel that explores free will, power, and a woman’s right to choose not her past, perhaps not her present, but certainly her future. This is Vendela Vida’s most assured and ambitious novel yet.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty – What I Liked

Despite the fact that I was certain I would not like this book, I actually liked many things. I read the book because it was a book club pick for a book club that I’m in. This particular book club consists of a group of women who travel, mostly solo travel. So the promise of a book rich in the culture of a foreign country is what first appealed to me. And this book did not disappoint in that respect.

From the first page of the book, I was strangely drawn in and could not stop reading. The main character was on the plane to Casablanca, Morocco, and I felt like it was me sitting on that airplane. This may have had something to do with the second-person perspective that it was written in – the “you” narrative. I’m not certain. All I know is that I absolutely had to keep reading.

I loved the exotic location of Morocco. The story was immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of Morocco and made me feel as if I was there experiencing all of those things myself. However, I don’t feel that the story was very complimentary to Morocco itself. As a woman who travels alone sometimes, I imagined how easy it would be for what happened to the main character in the book to happen to me. That could be a bit off-putting for some and sounds like perhaps Morocco should be blamed for that when it’s not really specifically the fault of Morocco at all. Care of your belongings and yourself must be taken wherever you travel, not just in Morocco. This is a reminder to always be vigilant when you travel, regardless of where you are going.

I enjoyed the mystery that developed. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call this book a mystery, a mystery developed for me because I didn’t know and couldn’t figure out certain things that were going on with some of the characters. I guess I would categorize this book as part mystery and part thriller. As more and more characters were introduced into the story, I found myself wondering if all was as it seemed or whether there was a giant hoax being acted out against the main character as well as myself – the reader!

And, again possibly because of the “you” narrative throughout the book, I felt like I was being somehow pulled along in the story but was seeing it from the outside, or from behind someone else. A bit strange really, but it absolutely kept me hooked on the story from the beginning until the very end.

In the end, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty made me think about the subject of identity and what that means to all of us. How solid is our identity, and how easy would it really be to change it, or lose it? I love books that really make me consider something like that, and this one did a brilliant job of it.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty – What I Didn’t Like

There was not a lot of dialogue at the beginning of the book, and I like dialogue. So I thought it would be boring. I was ultimately proved to be wrong on this, as I certainly wasn’t bored! However, I did somewhat pre-judge the book as one I wouldn’t like because of the lack of a lot of dialogue towards the beginning.

Some readers will feel like the ending of the book has dropped them like a hot potato! They will feel let down like the story was simply dropped without an ending. Other readers, will be fine with the ending, and I was one of those. I thought the ending of this book was somehow strangely appropriate and I don’t really see any other way that it could have ended.

It took me a long time to figure out what the title of the book has to do with the story, and even now, I’m not sure I’ve got it right.

The last “dislike” for me doesn’t really have any bearing on the book itself, but on how it will have some readers feel. Some women who travel alone may question whether traveling solo (especially to a foreign country) is safe after reading this book. And, as a fellow female traveler, I don’t like the idea of women feeling like they can’t travel alone. However, I do have some advice. Ladies, do not ever leave your most important stuff (passport, credit cards, money, electronics) alone or physically unattached to your body at any time. Even if you think you can “see” your belongings sitting right next to you, you must have them attached to your body with a bag that zippers everything inside. Yes, what happened in this book sounds extreme, but believe me – it’s possible. Always, always, always wear a crossbody bag held in front of your body, and do not ever take it off in public.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty – Read, ReRead or Reconsider?

And now, for my 3 Rs of book reviews!

Should you read, reRead or reconsider The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty?

Read

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty was a total surprise to me and I highly recommend it if you enjoy a good mysterious thriller set in an exotic location.


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Last Updated on November 17, 2022 by Mary Elle

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