If the lead character in Governor General’s Award winning author Dianne Warren’s latest novel had been born today, there would have been no story to tell. Instead, however, The Diamond House is the epic saga of Estella Diamond, an independent, iconoclastic woman born in Saskatchewan in 1924.

Her talented creator, a celebrated Saskatchewan-based writer, draws in readers from the beginning as she introduces us to ceramic artist Salina Passmore, first wife of patriarch Oliver Diamond. Salina’s existence is buried along with her, until five-year-old Estella, the precocious only daughter of Oliver and his second wife Beatrice, inadvertently stumbles upon a Salina-made teapot filled with old letters between her father and Salina.

Discovering that Salina was a trailblazer and a believer in equality for women, at a time when the idea was simply unthinkable, inspires Estella to dream big herself. These aspirations form the basis of Estella’s intriguing and sweeping life that is simultaneously both extraordinary and ordinary.

Often wishing that the daring Salina (and not the more prosaic Beatrice) had been her mother, Estella always finds solace in her father’s promise that one day she, and not her brothers, would take over his brickmaking business. Unfortunately, living in an era when women were never regarded as equal to men, Estella is merely being placated by her father and it is the male family members to whom, predictably, the factory was given.

Some years later Estella, a math teacher by education and a caregiver of her parents and ailing brother based on societal norms, maintains her feisty spirit always but sadly tears apart her family as a result of her relentless and rebellious point of view that women and men are deserving of the same opportunities.

With characteristic perceptiveness and smooth, flowing prose, Warren has woven another dramatic tale that is a beautiful read. She again demonstrates why she has received much critical acclaim for previous novels including the Governor General’s Award-winning Cool Water and Liberty Street. Warren is the recipient of both the Marian Engel Award from the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence.

Because of its historical authenticity, The Diamond House maintains a mostly morose tone throughout as Estella grows up at a time when her decision to live according to her own choices results in her failure to find the kind of happiness that might have been hers in modern days.

Salina is a suffragist, and her inability to achieve her goals is palpable: "I wonder how is a young woman such as myself to become what she dreams of being? I envy you that you can go off into the world just to learn when I cannot do the same."

Estella, decades later and still unattached romantically, ruminates similarly that "people never stop seeing a single woman as unfortunate, no matter how old she is."

In the end, Dianne Warren tells Estella Diamond’s compelling story as both a mundane and remarkable life only made so because of the era in which Estella was born.

Brenlee Carrington has been writing freelance book reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1998.