Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Book Review: Diva by Daisy Goodwin

Pages: 336 
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 23, 2024
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The American Heiress,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Daisy Goodwin returns with a story of the scandalous love affair between the most celebrated opera singer of all time and one of the richest men in the world. In the glittering and ruthlessly competitive world of opera, Maria Callas was known simply as la divina: the divine one. With her glorious voice, instinctive flair for the dramatic, and striking beauty, she was the toast of the grandest opera houses in the world. But her fame was hard won: Raised in Nazi-occupied Greece by a mother who mercilessly exploited her golden voice, she learned early in life to protect herself from those who would use her for their own ends. When she met the fabulously rich Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, for the first time in her life, she believed she’d found someone who saw the woman within the legendary soprano. She fell desperately in love. He introduced her to a life of unbelievable luxury, showering her with jewels and sojourns in the most fashionable international watering holes with celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. And then suddenly, it was over. The international press announced that Aristotle Onassis would marry the most famous woman in the world, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, leaving Maria to pick up the pieces. In this remarkable novel, Daisy Goodwin brings to life a woman whose extraordinary talent, unremitting drive, and natural chic made her a legend. But it was only in confronting the heartbreak of losing the man she loved that Maria Callas found her true voice and went on to triumph."


Most people know Maria Callas as the famed opera singer and longtime mistress of Aristotle Onassis, the richest man in the world. However, there is so much more to Maria than just that. Maria grew up in Greece with an overbearing mother who favored her much thinner sister, Jackie, and never really appreciated Maria's talents, but rather exploited them. This haunts Maria for the rest of her life. As she gets older and more famous in the opera world, she is then married to Meneghini, who also serves as her manager. This relationship is also toxic as he exploits her, controls her money, spends it freely and without her consent. Then comes Aristotle Onassis. He presents her with such luxury. Although he is married, she feels they are soulmates and he sees her like no one else. However, we know how things end for this fated love affair despite their actual chemistry. Once again Maria's heart is broken. Despite being one of the most talented women in the world, her personal life is in shambles. Thankfully, Maria eventually finds her way. Daisy Goodwin's Diva is a deep dive into Maria Callas, specifically looking at the 1950s and 1960s, her career, and her love affair with Ari.
Maria can be rough around the edges in Diva, but I liked that about her. She works hard and holds herself to a high standard. After losing a part due to her weight, she was determined to become healthier and succeeded even more. She brushes elbows with Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and royalty like the Duke of Windsor and Princess Grace. Ari takes her gorgeous places aboard his yacht, Christina. She lives a life of luxury, but her personal life has always been difficult. Her husband exploits her career and controls her money poorly. This was difficult to watch and what broke my heart was that she trusted him. I was glad to see her divorce him. But then she enters a relationship with Ari, which is heartbreaking. She tried to be independent from him, but they kept finding each other again and again. I don't like Ari, as he is present in many of the books I've read about the Kennedys and Jackie, so I may have gone into this with a lot of bias, but he was manipulative and cruel. I think Maria could do a lot better, and in the end, their tumultuous love affair broke her heart. But don't count out Maria!

While I really enjoyed Diva, it's not my favorite of Goodwin's biographical fiction novels. I feel like she could have fleshed more more about Maria's relationship with her mother and sister as this seemed to be where a lot of her problems first started. Readers get to witness her childhood through flashbacks in
Diva, which provide insight as to why Maria acts the way she does. It was nice to see her get all the attention in this novel after reading about her through the many biographies of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the Kennedy family; she is a force and deserves her own story. Fans of historical fiction will relish the chance to learn more about a renowned and internationally acclaimed woman in music. I know Diva made me google Maria and pull up videos of her singing and hear her stunning voice for myself.

Do you plan to read
Diva this winter? Are you a fan of Daisy Goodwin or interested in Maria Callas? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Onassis had such a hold over women, it was really wild!

  2. I know! I don't get it! He really annoyed me in this book, mostly b/c I just got done a Jackie Kennedy bio and I've had it with him! haha. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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