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1. The Deptford Trilogy
2. The Lyre of Orpheus (Cornish Trilogy)
3. The Cornish Trilogy
4. Fifth Business (Penguin Classics)
5. Robertson Davies: A Portrait in
6. What's Bred in the Bone (Cornish
7. The Cunning Man
8. The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies
9. Murther and Walking Spirits
10. The Manticore (Penguin Classics)
11. The Salterton Trilogy: Tempest-Tost
12. A Voice from the Attic: Essays
13. Mud and Magic Shows: Robertson
14. High Spirits: A Collection of
16. World of Wonders (Penguin Classics)
17. Conversations with Robertson Davies
18. Reading and Writing (Tanner Lectures
19. Robertson Davies's Cornish Trilogy:
20. The Merry Heart: Reflections on

1. The Deptford Trilogy
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 832 Pages (1990-10-01)
list price: US$22.00 -- used & new: US$9.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140147551
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Around a mysterious death is woven a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived trilogy of novels: "Fifth Business", often described as Robertson Davies' finest novel; "The Manticore", and "World of Wonders". Luring the reader down labyrinthine tunnels of myth, history and magic, "The Deptford Trilogy" provides an exhilarating antidote to a world from where 'the fear and dread and splendour of wonder have been banished. 'His books will be recognized with the very best works of this century' - "The New York Times" Book Review.Amazon.com Review
"Who killed Boy Staunton?"

This is the question that lies at the heart of Robertson Davies'selegant trilogy comprising Fifth Business, TheManticore, and World of Wonders. Indeed, Staunton's deathis the central event of each of the three novels, andRashomon-style, each circles round to view it from a differentperspective. In the first book, Fifth Business, Daviesintroduces us to Dunstan Ramsey and his "lifelong friend and enemy,Percy Boyd Staunton," both aged 10. It is a winter evening in thesmall Canadian village of Deptford, and Ramsey and Boy havequarreled. In a rage, Boy throws a snowball with a stone in it, misseshis friend and hits the Baptist minister's pregnant wife bymistake. She becomes hysterical and later that night delivers herchild prematurely, a baby with birth defects. Even worse, she losesher mind. The snowball, the stone, the deformed baby christened PaulDempster--this is the secret guilt that will bind Ramsey and Stauntontogether through their long lives:

I was perfectly sure, you see, that the birth of PaulDempster, so small, so feeble, and troublesome, was my fault. If I hadnot been so clever, so sly, so spiteful in hopping in front of theDempsters just as Percy Boyd Staunton threw that snowball at me frombehind, Mrs. Dempster would not have been struck. Did I never thinkthat Percy was guilty? Indeed I did.
Boy, however, "would fight, lie, do anything rather than admit" hefeels guilty, too, and so the subject remains unresolved between themright up until the night Boy's body is found in his car, in a lake,with a stone in his mouth. The second novel, The Manticore,follows Staunton's son, David, through a course of Jungian therapy inSwitzerland, while World of Wonders concentrates on MagnusEisengrim, a renowned magician and hypnotist with ties to both Ramseyand Boy Staunton.

When it came to writing, three was Davies's favorite number. Beforethe Deptford books, he wrote TheSalterton Trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven ofMalice, A Mixture of Frailties), and after it came TheCornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred inthe Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus). Excellent as these andDavies's other novels are, The Deptford Trilogy is arguably themasterpiece for which he'll best be remembered, as the combination ofmagic, archetype, and good, old-fashioned human frailty at work inthese novels is a world of wonders unto itself, and guarantees thesethree books a permanent place among the great books of ourtime. --Alix Wilber ... Read more

Customer Reviews (56)

5-0 out of 5 stars Deptford Trilogy
This book arrived a few days after I placed my order and is in perfect condition.I have read the trilogy and recommend it highly.

3-0 out of 5 stars Expected more
After reading the reviews I expected more. The 2nd book was especially bad, being a piece of dated Jungian propaganda and not particularly interesting. If you are looking for big themes that cover a life lived in the 20th century I recommend Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess or The New Confessions by William Boyd. Both do a much better job without inserting speeches into their characters' mouths.

2-0 out of 5 stars Going somewhere?
I can keep this short: I came away ultimately disappointed after making it most of the way through the second book because, simply, the story never really went anywhere.The writing was vivid and interesting, but the story was lacking.Not worth my time to continue on. There's too many other good books out there.Sorry Davies!

5-0 out of 5 stars Just wonderful
Everything Davies wrote is wonderful, but the Trilogy is just the best. An incredible writer!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
I was once told that this trilogy has a prominent place at the Jung Center library in Zurich. Not sure if that's true, but it certainly isn't a far-fetched assertion. These books will tell you more about the teaching of the good doctor than any textbook. They also pack more into a paragraph or two about -- you name it -- life, love, longing, spirit, saints, archetypes, interiority, false self, true self, vanity, than most books can manage in their full length. Each one individually is a gem, but together, well, I've yet to find anything to match.

I make sure to re-read them at least once every three to five years. And Christmastime is the perfect time to pick up Fifth Business and ride the wave right on through to the end of World of Wonders. If these books don't change your life, then you either aren't paying attention or just don't want your life changed. ... Read more

2. The Lyre of Orpheus (Cornish Trilogy)
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 480 Pages (1990-01-01)
list price: US$29.00 -- used & new: US$3.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140114335
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Davies triumphantly concludes the trilogy begun with The Rebel Angels. The Cornish Foundation is thriving under the tutelage of Arthur Cornish, art expert, collector, connoisseur, and notable eccentric. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Lyre of Orpheus (Cornish Trilogy)
This book was purchased as a replacement for one lost by me from a little library in New Brunswick Canada.

This 1988 novel is last of Davies "Cornish Trilogy."The first is "Rebel Angels", 1981, and second "What's Bred in the Bone."(1985) In the story, the executors of the will of Francis Cornish (hero of "What's Bred in the Bone) are now the heads of the "Cornish Foundation."Brilliant Robertson Davies in this work, has the executors decide to stage an unfinished opera by E.T.A. Hoffman, (at Stratford, Ontario.)They hire a young composer to complete the opera. Dark humor figures as the ghost of Hoffman is part of the effort. Production of the opera is a structural element that parallels the story.

Davies is probably best known for his "Fifth Business" part of the Depford Trilogy", He has an elegant, voice reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh.It is a layered, complex read, requiring focus, and time.His work is enchanting.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fine tune on the "Lyre".
Robertson Davies' last major novel trilogy, "Cornish", concludes with this book, which is in many respects my favourite of the set."The Rebel Angels" introduced us to the characters who inhabit the world of the College of St John and the Holy Ghost (a thinly-disguised version of Trinity College at Toronto); "What's Bred in the Bone" went back in time to give us the life story of Frank Cornish, the man whose death drove the plot of the first novel.Now in "Lyre" the strands of both novels come together, and Davies, having previously indulged his love of Rabelais, theology, and Medieval art, now takes us into the machinations of opera.Plot details discussed herein.

Much as "The World of Wonders" concluded "The Deptford Trilogy" by bringing back the first book's narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, so this third book in the trilogy sees the return of Simon Darcourt as focal character, though only partially, as Davies here indulges more in omniscient third-person narration than in the past.This includes segments narrated by the deceased poet and musician E. T. A Hoffmann from Limbo, the place for deceased artists who never achieved their potential (Hoffmann's parts introduce a surreal element akin to the commentating angels from "What's Bred in the Bone").But rescue may be at hand for Hoffmann, as the messy graduate student Hulda Schnakenburg proposes to finish his last opera, "Arthur of Britain", using notes left behind.The attempt to stage this opera drives the plot and, as in other Davies novels, the mythic meta-echoes of Arthurian story reflect and influence the lives of the characters.

Without having read Davies, many might assume that his novels would stuffy, 19th century affairs, but this work, especially, defies that idea.Davies depicts some fairly frank sexuality, largely of a homosexual nature here, with the arrival of the splendidly-named Dr. Gunnila Dahl-Soot, a Nordic music instructor called in to assist.The modern day Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle is rather odd, though; you would think Arthur and Maria would be a bit more put off by Geraint and his motivation.But, whatever, it's all archetypal.Davies was always fascinated with opera, and yearned to write one himself, something eventually realized, though he did not live to see it performed.Here he gives us an intriguing depiction of the art as it exists today and existed in the early 19th century in Britain and Germany, before Wagner.


4-0 out of 5 stars An intellectual romp
This is the third book in a trilogy.I hadn't read the first two, which in one way was an advantage: there is a certain amount of background material provided which would no doubt be dull for someone already familiar with it.At the same time, while I found many of the secondary characters nicely developed and interesting, I was left cold by two of the main characters, Arthur and Maria, and perhaps they would have meant more to me had I read the whole trilogy.The gypsy angle seemed forced and would better have been edited out.

In any event, the major reason for reading this novel is the sparkling conversation, whether it be about the personal, or about painting and especially opera; aesthetics, criticism, music, theater, myth, current and historical perspectives and stagecraft are all discussed in a fun manner, and all are germane to the plot. The novel is truly an intellectual romp.

4-0 out of 5 stars Characters are the Treasure Here
The Lyre of Orpheus is the concluding novel in Robertson Davies's Cornish Trilogy, and it stands as a strong work within the context of that collection.Like The Rebel Angels (the first book), The Lyre of Orpheus is very much dependent upon the two other books and does not do well as a stand-alone.

In many ways, The Lyre of Orpheus was surprising to this reader.Its plot revolves around an Arthurian quest (loosely) to put on a production of a long-dead composer whose opera had fallen short of completion at the time of his death in the early 19th century.The task was to write an opera that was sufficiently of his spirit, so as to be called his, and then produce it according to the conventions of the theatre of the day.Honestly, I would be hard-pressed to think of a plot that would be less likely to rouse my interest, personally (my apologies to all those truly devoted to early 19th century opera!).Having invested myself in the first two books of the trilogy, however, I resigned myself to the task of reading this last installment (lest I have to chastise myself in future years for having gone so far and then turned back).The `round table' of this tale was, for me, the most tedious of experiences (except when a drunken, rude Scandinavian music scholar provided me with some humour to console my page-turning drudgery).Indeed, the book often wanders with Davies's own apparent unclear quest to find his way from one cover to the next.BUT - all of that said, I found myself falling in love with this book, the more I read of it.

Robertson Davies has (though he is gone, he is not really) a delightful gift of making us find joy in the chatter and company of our own lives.This book, perhaps more than many of his creation, takes us through a luxurious indulgence in the meanderings of days strung together whose meaning can only be guessed, or retroactively assigned.The `round table,' though often a great annoyance to this reader, began to feel as beloved (and despised) as the Thanksgiving table filled with family and friends.The treasure of this book is to be found in the characters, not in the plot (which is a mere backdrop - and excuse for the story - just as the libretto is an excuse for the opera's music (according to Davies)).

I give high marks to this book.I expected not to like it; but I did.Very much so, in fact.I commend it to your reading.

1-0 out of 5 stars Unless your an Welsh Opera fanatic
After reading "The Rebel Angels" and "What's Bred in the Bone", two five star novels, I expected to thoroughly enjoy the last segment of the trilogy.Well, the only reason I made it through the novel was that I wanted to say that I read the entire trilogy.The book completely changes in tone from the first two.Professors I respected in the first books are buffoons in this one.There are an untold number of quotations from opera librettos, medieval poems, etc. that were not relevant to me at all.One of the characters is incapable of appearing without making multiple references to Wales, Welsh literature and history.This would not have been a problem except that this is one of the main characters.The whole gypsy theme, which was so fascinating in the rebel angels gets overwhelmed by the Welshness.

In sum, it turned its back on wonderful characters, made obscure references to poems I never read, focused too much on opera and changed in tone from the first two books in a rather dissappointing way.Alas. ... Read more

3. The Cornish Trilogy
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 1152 Pages (1992-02-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$3.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140158502
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Woven around the pursuits of the energetic spirits and erudite scholars of the University of St. John and the Holy Ghost, this dazzling trilogy of novels lures the reader into a world of mysticism, historical allusion, and gothic fantasy that could only be the invention of Canada's grand man of letters. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

5-0 out of 5 stars Good to the last page...
A friend encouraged me to put the Cornish trilogy on my list of books-to-get-to-someday.Eight years later, I have finally read it, and am so glad I did.I found the reading itself to be remarkably easy-- the plots are not complicated or unreasonably challenging for someone like me, who is not interested in being confused.The books are really less about plot than about characters and ideas.Like others, I found the author/characters to be much like the best of my college professors:able to take big ideas and lay them out in a way that makes sense and lets me absorb them.

The three arts-- literature, painting and music-- explored in the three novels left me feeling like I know a little more about each.And here I want to defend the third novel which some other reviewers have dismissed as unremarkable or even unreadable.I came to Lyre with more knowledge of the theme (with my music degree in my hip pocket, as it were) than to the others.I found the discussions of the role of composition vs. libretto to be amusing and insightful-- the fight among the levels of creators in an opera isn't unlike the parallel struggle for control of the Cornish foundation.The need of musicians for sponsors was well played out.The exploration of the Arthur legend in all of its bastardizations, including the one played out in the novel, was also engaging.

For me, the last novel was the most accessible because I came to it with the most understanding of the topic.But all three challenged me enough to make this more than just an average summer read.Find sustained reading time-- this is a group of books to be savored and digested, not just sucked down and tossed aside.

5-0 out of 5 stars AMAZING, AMAZING
Impossible not to enjoy, especially for some of the lesser characters. Not to spoil anybody's reading: the male gypsy and the jerk from an American University who appears toward the end of the last volume are priceless.

4-0 out of 5 stars Find Your Undine
Well, what exactly to say about this trilogy stretching to over eleven hundred pages?So many things come to mind, and it would be impossible to give them all due consideration without writing a review at least half as long as the book(s). -- I'll deal with what I don't particularly fancy about the trilogy as a start:I don't like being confronted with gypsy Tarot readers who put menstrual blood in a fellow's drink to besot him, female spies with bedazzling psychic powers who also offer a good tumble when the praeternatural reading is over and art connoisseurs endowed with a very effective "evil eye" who bequeath their fortunes in Swiss numbered bank accounts upon their demise (and such like figures) around every corner.But such are the characters who populate all three books of the trilogy and whom we are supposed to take (to a certain extent at least) seriously. But these improbable characters are merely bothersome, it seems to me, on a rather comedic level.My deeper problem (and this was a problem with The Deptford Trilogy as well) is Davies's professorial tone here.Another reviewer has already remarked on his lack of passion.I should rather frame it thusly: Davies writes quite well and extensively ABOUT passion and characters - to borrow from Yeats, as Davies frequently does herein - full of passionate intensity, but he does not write WITH passion. He is not lyrical, not a stylist, not poetic.Rather, parts of this book read like Jungian sermons (coming, of course from Simon Darcourt, so obviously an alter ego of Davies himself). - This is, summarily, what I find problematic and dislike about the trilogy.

What I appreciate about The Cornish Trilogy is that it at least makes an attempt, however excruciating in the execution, to deal with the depths in us all.This is the reason I would recommend it, despite misgivings, to any literate and contemplative reader; there is at least a trace, certainly of Simon Darcourt, probably of Francis Cornish, in anybody even considering reading this opus - not to the exclusion of other characters, however rum.

E.T.A. Hoffman, as Davies portrays him, shuffling about in Limbo, awaiting his Fate, exclaims, "Undine- yes, my wonderful tale of the water nymph who marries a mortal, and at last claims him for her underwater kingdom; what does it not say about the need for modern man to explore the deep waters that lie beneath his own surface?"

Somewhere in this rambling, shaggy dog trilogy full of parodies, grotesqueries and academic in-jokes, the persevering reader is destined to come upon his or her undertow into the depths. - Reason enough to read, I say.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story told beautifully
The Cornish Trilogy is a beautiful work of fiction as Robertson Davies takes the reader on a trip across Europe and North America to unravel the mysteries of the rather unusual Cornish family.It sheds light on the human condition as it explores such things as culture traditions, societal class barriers, love, desire, power, altruism and morality as part of a historical journey.

5-0 out of 5 stars But is it art?
Davies's Cornish trilogy should be read by anyone with an interest in the philosophy of art -- questions of attribution, forgery and fakery, and authenticity pervade all three novels, which deal with literature, painting and music respectively. Art in general, and art objects in particular, take on a shadowy, slippery aspect in spite of the very palpable (and almost erotically desirable) qualities they have for Davies's characters. Aesthetic and spiritual experience are intertwined. But the style, while elevated, is never dry or preachy -- the characters are rounded and often delightfully vulgar and even the most intellectual threads of the story are brimming with life and humour. ... Read more

4. Fifth Business (Penguin Classics)
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 252 Pages (2001-01-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0141186151
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross and destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious, influence on those around him. His apparently innocent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous.

Fifth Business stands alone as a remarkable story told by a rational man who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (71)

4-0 out of 5 stars The tale of Dunstan
Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy is a strange, slightly magical trio of fictional biographies, all of which originate in the small Canadian town of Deptford. And it all starts with "Fifth Business," Davies' exploration of the life of DunstanRamsey and his friendship with a callous billionaire and a magician-- magical, intellectual, and written in a pleasantly old-timey style.

As a boy, Dunstan dodged a snowball thrown by rich brat Percy Boyd Staunton... but it then hit the minister's pregnant wife, Mary Dempster. She went into premature labor from the shock, and produced a tiny baby named Paul. What's more, she apparently lost her mind (which resulted in a massive sexual scandal).

Dunstan grew up with mingled guilt and fascination with Mary, since she seemed to have a purity and sweetness that didn't mesh with her depraved reputation. As the years went by, Dunstan left Deptford behind to become a soldier in World War I, was badly injured, had his first passionate affair, went to college and became a teacher at an elite boys' school. And because of his fascination with Mary, he became interested in the Catholic pantheon of saints.

He also remained friends with Percy, who had renamed himself "Boy" Staunton, married his childhood sweetheart and become a wealthy, influential man. But Dunstan discovers that Boy is also a selfish, cruel man who wrecks his poor dumb wife's life, spoiled his daughter and alienated his son -- and since this is a book, it inevitably leads to tragedy.

Like many of Robertson Davies' books, "Fifth Business" is a sort of fictional biography with lots of sprawling, interconnected plot threads that feed back into each other. And aside from what is actually going on, Davies weaves in some more intellectual content, focusing on saints, God and what makes a person truly good -- what they do, or who they are.

He wrote in a stately, almost 19th-century style ("She knew she was in disgrace with the world, but did not feel disgraced; she knew she was jeered at, but felt no humiliation. She lived by a light that arose from within"), but laced it with magical realism and some clever satire (Boy's pretentious friends "were so humourless and, except when they were drunk, so cross that I thought the ordinary fellow was lucky not to be like them").

The only flaw of it is perhaps that it deals primarily with the life of Dunstan Ramsey, who isn't nearly as interesting as the luminous sinner-saint Mary Dempsey, or her runaway child Paul. Dunstan comes across as cold, introverted and rather pathetic (especially since he keeps letting Boy shove him around), especially since he never quite realizes that he is "watching life from the sidelines and knowing where all the players go wrong."

The supporting characters are fascinating -- Mary is a hauntingly lovely depiction of a woman who knows nothing about what the world cares about, and is slowly ruined by her innocence. On the other hand, Boyd is a man with no inner depth or goodness because he cares only about the world. And there are many others: Magnus Eisengrim, the kindly Diana, and the ugly but wise Liesl ("With such a gargoyle! And yet never have I known such deep delight or such an aftermath of healing tenderness!").

"Fifth Business" is the jumping point from the Deptford Trilogy -- the protagonist isn't nearly as intriguing as the supporting cast, but they're enough to fascinate and horrify.

5-0 out of 5 stars The novel that put Davies on the map, possibly still his best.
Halfway between the cultural worlds of Britain and America, and increasingly in the orbit of the latter (the world's greatest generator of mass media cultural products), Canadians looking for a literature of their own that is both distinct and actually entertaining to read are often hard up for options.Far too much modern art literature is dull and not especially pleasant.However, if there is such a thing as the "Great Canadian Novel", Robertson Davies' 1970 novel has as strong a claim on that title as any other.

Our main character, Dunstan Ramsay (originally Dunstable), is born in a small Ontario town (Deptford, which lends its name to the trilogy of novels that this begins), and, as per the title of the novel, finds that he is throughout his life fulfilling the role of the `fifth business'.In operatic theory (Davies was a big opera fan), the fifth business is the background roles in the story that don't star but are still necessary for things to move along.The idea of Dunstan as not being the main character in the `story' is a rather complicated one; after all, is there really a story independent on the one that we are reading?And certainly, for literary purposes, Dunstan's own life is quite interesting.He wins a Victoria Cross, after all; he's hardly just a background player.Nevertheless, you can definitely imagine him as a significant supporting character in the lives of Boy and Paul.Perhaps it is like watching "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" without there actually being a "Hamlet".

Davies is an excellent writer, and does a strong job of rendering his main character and the ones around him.He's got a good wit about him, and the book is often drily funny.He covers quite a period in Canadian history, beginning in the Edwardian period (a holdover of the Victorian), through the First World War, and into the new and more independent nation, though still very much linked to the old (America, interestingly, doesn't really come into play much in Davies' novels).It's a compelling snapshot of the Canada of yesteryear.


5-0 out of 5 stars Magic, Madness and the Human Condition
A profound portrayal of the human condition. Probes a tragic magic and madness that lines our lives and sometimes(often?) comes to the fore as central.

Michael Eigen
Aurthor, Feeling Matters and Flames From the Unconscious: Trauma, Madness and Faith

5-0 out of 5 stars Deeply satisfying
My experience of reading this book reminds me of the scene in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" where Paul Reubens' character is attempting to save all of the animals from a burning pet store: he keeps running out with more and more animals every time. I could read this book multiple times and come out with something new every time. The characters are fully formed, the plot moves forward like a David Lynch-directed episode of "Law & Order," and it oozes with mythic undertones.It's one of those rare Big books that is bubbling over with the messiness of life and the here-and-nowness of myth without either aspect seeming forced. That must be a Canadian thing. Is that why it took me so long to discover Robertson Davies? I brought him up to a friend and his only response was, "I didn't know the president of the Confederacy wrote fiction." Anyway -- definitely a desert island book.

5-0 out of 5 stars old school story telling
Davies write a fantastic story that will not appeal to hipsters looking for sarcastic smarmy prose but to readers who like a good story written with wit and intelligence and grace. Even if you can't relate to Dunstable Ramsay the school teacher or don't care about the history of saints or what constitutes a modern saint, it is difficult not to appreciate Davie's easy style and engaging stories. The entire trilogy is excellent, but this is his triumph. It is a shame that writers like Davies are lost to time; he deserves better. ... Read more

5. Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic
by Val Ross
Paperback: 400 Pages (2009-08-04)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$11.62
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0771077769
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
National bestseller and a Globe and Mail Best Book

A fascinating, larger-than-life character, Davies left a treasure trove of stories about him when he died in 1995 — expertly arranged here into a revealing portrait.

From his student days onward, Robertson Davies made a huge impression on those around him. He was so clearly bound for a glorious future that some young friends even carefully preserved his letters. And everyone remembered their encounters with him.

Later in life, as a world-famous writer, perhaps Canada’s pre-eminent man of letters (who “looked like Jehovah”), he attracted people eager to meet him, who also vividly remembered their meetings. So when Val Ross set out in search of people’s memories, she was faced with a wonderful embarrassment of riches.
The one hundred or so contributors here range very widely. There are family memories, of course, and memories from colleagues in the academic world who knew him as a professor and the founding master of Massey College at the University of Toronto.

Predictably, there are other major writers like Margaret Atwood and John Irving. Less predictably, there are people from the world of Hollywood, such as Norman Jewison and David Cronenberg (who remembers Davies on-set, peering through a camera lens as he researched his newest novel). And we even hear from his barber, and from his gardener, Theo Henkenhaf.

Some speakers contribute just a lively paragraph; others several pages. Yet all of them, through the magic of Val Ross’s art, help to create an intriguing, full-colour portrait of a complex man beloved by millions of readers around the world.

From the Hardcover edition. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A biography from over one hundred contributors who paint a unique collective picture of the man and his work
Some authors sell books, other make an impact that lasts for years after. "Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic" is a biography from over one hundred contributors who paint a unique collective picture of the man and his work. and what he left behind. From his family to those who met with in his everyday life to those influenced by his work and his contemporaries, "Robertson Davies" is well worth the consideration for any literary biography collections.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best writer
Robertson Davies is the best writer of the last century. It was illuminating readin this book about him. A must read! ... Read more

6. What's Bred in the Bone (Cornish Trilogy)
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 448 Pages (1986-11-04)
list price: US$28.00 -- used & new: US$7.07
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140097112
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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At once ingenious and powerful, What's Bred in the Bone holds the usual rich mixture of Davies' delights. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

5-0 out of 5 stars Davies delivers another erudite, interesting work.
Robertson Davies' Cornish Trilogy hits its second instalment, which was in some ways his highest-profile novel: it was the only of his eleven published novels to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Fiction (his only win in that category came for 1972's "The Manticore", also the second book in a trilogy).It's an interesting work, shifting the focus from the goings-on at Spook college to the life of Francis Cornish, the man whose death jumpstarted the plot of "The Rebel Angels".

The book opens by briefly revisiting the characters from the previous novel, and then introduces the singularly odd and entertaining narrative conceit (one that would be repeated with a variation in "The Lyre of Orpheus") of the supernatural now intruding into what had previously been a quasi-realist setting.Indeed, the story is narrated (and occasionally interrupted) by an angel (the Lesser Zadkiel, the recorder) and a daimon (Maimas), who describe, comment on, and, in Maimas' case, shaped, the life of Francis Cornish.For those familiar with Davies' past work, there is quite a bit of similarity between this and "Fifth Business" (whose main character, Dunstan Ramsay, makes a cameo here), and to a lesser extent "World of Wonders", following a young Canadian in the early 20th century as he makes his way through the world, and particularly European society (America is always a minimal presence in Davies' world, for whatever reason).

Most of Davies' lead characters have some esoteric cultural interest that serves as a vehicle for his interests: Ramsay was interested in Medieval saints, David Staunton underwent Jungian psychoanalysis, Magnus Eisengrim in stage magic and acting, the cast of "The Rebel Angels" in Rabelais and Medieval learning; with Frank Cornish, we get to art theory (Medieval, primarily).Davies is always able to make these things interesting, and he takes Frank to some interesting parts of history, including a neat aspect of the march to war in the 1930s.Other topics for discussion include Canadian identity and the role of the artist.If there's a criticism, it would be that the through-line of this story is less clear than in past books.

Recommended for fans of the writer's other work.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant through and through, absolutely one of my favorite novels
I first read this book about 20 years ago. I still remember it vividly.Francis Cheggin Cornish seems less like a fictional character to me than a real person a favorite uncle told me stories about.Actually, that's as apt a description of Davies as a novelist/persona I can think of.

At the simplest level, this book is about the life of an artist -- but that gross simplification doesn't even scratch the surface of Davies' rich exercise in fictionalized biography.To me, this book is nothing less than a contemplation of how life experience makes a person what they are.A simple enough idea, but one that opens up to infinite complexities.It is rare to encounter a life (real or imagined) unspooled with such fascinating lucidity and a deft insight.

What's that mean?Basically, Davies' writes about the character Francis Cornish in a way that draws you in at every level.By the end, you will feel as if you KNOW him.Again, it sounds like a simple literary idea -- fictionalized biography -- but you feel free to hunt around for other examples as good as this.You won't be finding many, I'd be so bold to wager.

This is the "middle" book of Davies' Cornish Trilogy (my favorite of his trilogy of trilogies, though you can't go wrong with any of 'em) though, chronologically, the first in the story.I read it that way, way back when, and I actually recommend that.Maybe I'm off-base here but I think the first book (The Rebel Angels) works better when you know this one, regardless of the order Davies wrote the works in.I dunno.You decide.

Anyway, a heck of a book.A heck of writer. Can't recommend it enough.

-- mm

5-0 out of 5 stars Blairlogie
I didn't know of Davies' history - except that he went to UCC and Queens and UofT - and that he was a wonderful storyteller.

What's Bred in the Bone tells the story of Francis Cornish, beginning with his birth and childhood in Blairlogie.As I read on, I soon realized that Blairlogie was in fact Renfrew Ontario, my hometown... I didn't know how he had been able to describe my hometown so well, but I was knew it was Renfrew - physically, historically, economically and personally.

I later learned that Davies had been able to draw such a devastatingly clear, ironic and satirical portrait of Renfrew, because he too grew up there.He attended the same public school as me (although we had proper plumbing by the time I went there) and attended the same church.The story is populated with Renfrew names... Cornish was the Anglican Minister, Froats - the Monument Maker - and so on.

It is a wonderful story - and all the more so because Renfrew continues with much the same social system, which includes an annual "Lumber Baron Days," while ignoring the wonderful love letter from a homegrown son. Too Rich!

4-0 out of 5 stars An astonishing book.
I, at first, did not enjoy this book since I am not a fan of the rather cold English way of writing which lacks empathy and joy and is full of cynicism and an almost brutal acceptance of suffering without any concomitant emotions. This changed throughout however and the book is almost a work of art.

The book concerns itself with the life of Francis Cornish from his childhood to middle age with almost no mention of his later life up to his death. There are really two distinct parts to the book, the first deals with Francis's childhood and is written in that witty (and a little dry) style so characteristic of British humour. His childhood encompasses Francis's experiences of the Catholic and Protestant faiths as practised among his relatives who represent almost cliches in this sense. His impressive Grandfather, warm aunt, rarely seen mother and distant father as well as a range of fascinating characters such as Victoria Cameron the Scottish Protestant cook, Zadok the coachman and enbalmer and finally the crusty old doctor. This part builds the final character of Francis, except in one aspect, and gives an idea of why and how his life proceeds.

The second part is really about two people, Francis and Tancred Saraceni the Meister of Art who teaches Francis all about art restoration as well as much that is wise and deep. It is Saraceni who I believe to be the most interesting character and the last step in building Francis as a man, or as Saraceni calls him Corniche. This final part of his character one would call "Bildung" in German with all that this entails. As Francis develops his art, which started as a little boy with sketches of just about anything, his true talent is revealed. The moment when the Maestro tells him he is a master now is, I think, the finest moment in the book. It is unfortunate that Francis's talent is not further developed after he completes his only Masterpiece "The Marriage at Cana" a magnificent large oil painting in the 16th Century style. This painting really tells the story of Francis's soul and could have been the start of an incredible career of the Alchemical Master as Saraceni puts it. Unfortunately his career as an artist never takes off and one is disappointed with his lack of drive and passion to continue. It is this last third of the book where it becomes difficult to really enjoy it as much. It must not be forgotten how well Davies writes in this section about art and especially about the soul of art. This is why the book itself is perilously close to a work of art itself.

The last part deals with Francis's life as, first, a low grade spy in the service of MI5 during WWII and finally as an art dealer in Canada. Here too we learn a little more about his father and his one love affair with Ismay, the passion driven beauty of his life. His father never really steps out of his "Wooden Soldier" shoes but Ismay represents some real women I have known.

An astonishing book and hopefully the remaining ones in the trilogy are as good.

5-0 out of 5 stars Forged Truth
What's Bred in the Bone is the one true stand-alone novel in the Cornish Trilogy.This middle volume is a superb telling of the life of Francis Cornish, the hinge upon whom all of the trilogy is supported.Some elements of the story are clearly reminiscent (to readers of Davies) of his earlier book, Fifth Business.But this is no mere reworking of an old theme.There is a freshness to this novel that makes for a story well worth the read.

This book takes the reader back into rural Ontario of the early 20th century, filling us with fictionalized visions of Davies's own childhood.Lest that be off-putting to some, however, it should be noted that this is a novel that also takes the main character to far away Europe, into the intrigues of war, and the mysteries of forged (and not-quite-forged) artworks.What this story misses, relative to the first and third books of the trilogy, is the spice given to us by Maria's mother and uncle, who are absent here.Theirs is the archetypal energy that finds no true parallel in this book.The reader is compensated for this absence, however, by the personage of the coachman/undertaker, a rich character indeed!

I give this book my solid and hearty recommendation.It is suitable for anyone interested in reading a book by this master of the pen, whether or not they care to read the other volumes of the trilogy (though I sincerely hope that you will read the other books!).Superb. ... Read more

7. The Cunning Man
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 480 Pages (1996-02-01)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$7.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140248307
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Following the mysterious death of Father Hobbs at the high altar on Good Friday, holistic doctor Jonathan Hullah takes a critical look at his past and at the individuals who shaped his life, and reevaluates his personal philosophies. Reprint. NYT. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (30)

3-0 out of 5 stars Too Cunning By Half
I've been an avid, even proselytic fan of Robertson Davies for more than 20 years, and was delighted to discover that this novel (his last) had somehow slipped by me and that there was still more Davies to read. Sadly, The Cunning Man is a let-down--a book that demonstrates, more than anything, an act of literary onomatopoeia: a novel about an elderly man contemplating a life's worth of memories and trying to position himself philosophically and existentially as he nears the end of his own story, written by an elderly writer contemplating a life's worth of memories and trying to position himself etc. The book opens with typical Davies dash, a hook that nonetheless begins to falter after less than 50 pages and which ultimately fizzles out like a Fourth of July sparkler. There's another flash at the very end of the book; in between, there's a long and only intermittently interesting series of anecdotes about characters you never get to know well and who are essentially collections of idiosyncrasies and peculiarities upon which the narrator can comment and, against which, measure himself. Framing an entire novel as a prolonged flashback (spurred in this case by the unwieldy device of a newspaper interview) has its hazards, not the least of which is that the reader essentially knows, going in, that all the characters he's about to meet are dead, disposed of, or immaterial before the narrator even gets warmed up. Like all prolonged reminiscences, that is, the story tends to evoke more passion in the storyteller than in the audience. Here and there, too, Davies allows his protagonist (himself, it seems clear) to wax on to the point of rivaling Polonius: reflections, opinions about life and love, advice, great wisdom (over) generously shared. The Cunning Man thus becomes, sadly, more tedious than not, an unsatisfying coda to the life of great and resourceful writer.

5-0 out of 5 stars The last great novel
"The cunning man" represents the apex in Mr. Davies novels and works. For new comers to Mr Davies legacy, please be so kind as to start with "The fifth business" as you may spoil your dessert.

3-0 out of 5 stars Cunning end
Though Robertson Davies was researching another book -- the end of the unfinished "Toronto Trilogy" -- his final novel "The Cunning Man" feels like the real end of his career. While it has some typical Daviesian content (mystery, evolving characters), the whole novel feels like an elderly man's farewell to his friends and the changing world.

Father Ninian Hobbes, a sweet old High Anglican priest, dies during Good Friday mass. Dr. Jonathan Hullah is perplexed by the details, but not so perplexed that he doesn't take the time to recount his life story: a supposedly fragile child in a backward Canadian village, who encountered love, deep friendship, and the mysteries of psychological and physical medicine.

In the present, he's a successful doctor, with a lot of the drama centering on St. Aiden's Church and his two old schoolmates: scholarly Brocky, and tragically pious priest Charlie. The death of old Hobbes sets off a hysterical devotion to the old "saint," followed by a murder, the loss of old friends, and a shocking confession that changes Hullah's world.

"The Cunning Man" is actually more like two books -- one is the bildungsroman of Hullah's youth and development, and the other is more like a series of short stories about Hullah's waning years. Many pages have musings about how the world -- and Canada -- has changed, regrets, and the loss of old friends to illness and age. You can tell that Davies was near the end of his life when he wrote this.

As is usual with Davies' books, there's a wealth of historical and philosophical detail, with quirky moments like the shaman's tent and Hullah trying to diagnose fictional characters. He also tackles the question of miracles (without taking sides), the spirit of marriage, and the idea of religious devotion twisted into something else, when sins are committed in an attempt to glorify God.

But his is a less coherent book than most of Davies' works. Some of the characters -- Dwyer, the Gilmartins -- simply fade out or expire offscreen, without fanfare or even much of an explanation. And the latter half is chopped up by multiple subplots and lots of rambly letters from Hullah's landlady, which are interesting but hard to follow.

Hullah himself isn't terribly likable; he seems too enamored of himself. The interesting ones are the supporting characters -- lovable cynic Brocky and his wife Nuala (respectively friend and lover to Hullah), the lesbian landladies, Esme the journalist, Dwyer the religious gay banker, Mrs. Smoke the gruff medicine woman, and Charlie the worshipful curate whose piety is slowly perverted.

"The Cunning Man" is perhaps Davies' weakest novel as well as his last, but it's also a melancholy, introspective piece of work. Farewell, Mr. Davies.

3-0 out of 5 stars decent book
the main character was a little too in love with himself.maybe that was the point. about 80% of the way through, i got bored and put the book away.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Cast of Characters
Robertson Davies' "The Cunning Man" purports to be the Diary or Case Book of a doctor--Jonathan Hullah--who moves from the wilderness of Sioux Lookout to Toronto, Canada.

But it is much more than that.It turns into what the narrator, Hullah, says he wants to avoid, a Bildungsroman or Novel of Development: in this case thedevelopment of Hullah's character, but also the development of Toronto and Canada itself, from a wild-and-wooly backwoods place to an cosmopolitan, but very quirky, society.

The cast of characters is brilliant.

Hullah himself is interesting, if a little stuffy.But Pansy Todhunter, one of "The Ladies," whose letters he quotes in full, is a wonderful offset: slangy, funny, malicious, hearfelt.

Charlie his never-quite-holy priest friend is fabulous: tormented and visionary and fanatical and sad.

Mrs. Smoke, the cranky Indian shamaness who saves the 8-year-old Jonathan by magic spells and awakens him to The Other.

Darcy Dwyer, the aesthete bankerwho opens him to music and the visual arts, but also ruthless inquiry and even espionage.

Lt. Commander Daubigny, the high-school teacher witha multi-national and even cannibalistic past.

Even Esme, the relentless young reporter with whom Hullah becomes, shockingly, smitten.

All are wonderful in themselves, yet emblematic of larger elements of a changing society.

Instructive, thoughtful, funny.A wonderful read. ... Read more

8. The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies
by Robertson Davies
 Paperback: 384 Pages (1991-07-01)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$7.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140126597
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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First published in the U.S. last year, this updated collection contains the best of Robertson Davies' newspaper and magazine articles written over the past 50 years. "Each piece is entertaining and enlightening. . . ."--Publishers Weekly. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars Sunday Best
Usually, there is nothing more dead than someone's old newspaper columns.A quick take on the passing parade is normally gone as soon as said parade is.This collection of Robertson Davies' bread and butter writing newspaper writing is anything but stale.

Davies' old Sunday columns from various Canadian newspapers date back nearly half a century from the time of this book's publication.As he limits himself mostly to great literature and writers, the pieces have aged well.Davies comes across as a rather avuncular feuilleton, serving up tidy little takes on Dickens, James Agate, the Welsh verse form known as the englyn, and a slew of other famous and once-famous figures.

Don't misunderstand: this is not the most timeless stuff Davies ever wrote.But it is a good collection of his marginalia, which has the rare virtue of never being trivial.

4-0 out of 5 stars As eclectic in his non-fiction as in his fiction
I took a break from Davies fiction this month to read this collection of non-fiction, culled from over thirty years of essays, and grouped into three broad categories: Characters, Books, and Robertson Davies. I say broad because Davies was not thinking of these categories as he wrote these essays. Instead, these were written to fill his column at the Peterborough Examiner ("A Writer's Diary") or book reviews for various American publications such as Harper's, The Washington Post, or The Atlantic Monthly. Characters, however, tends to be about "lives"--either the lives of authors (including Wodehouse and Freud), literary creations (mehitabel), or theater figures (Emma Calve and Melli Nelba). Okay, I'll admit it--I didn't know who Calve and Nelba were either, but that's because I'm a book person, not a theater person. Even so, some of the authors and books covered here do stretch even my prodigious reading (not to mention my memory), partly due to the age of some of these essays (some as early as 1942) and partly due to Davies quite eclectic interests. That's why I like him, however. Eclecticism is the mark of someone not afraid of change.

The Books section is just as varied, covering Graves' King Jesus and Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. What was interesting for me is his comment on the Mervyn Peake's fantasy classic, The Gormenghast Trilogy, which I have tried to read several times and never found it to catch my interest. I must have another go at it sometime in the near future. In this section of book reviews, it is interesting to note the progression (the articles are arranged in chronological order) of how the writer views the writing of his forebears and his peers, especially in the light of the wonderful writer Davies himself was becoming. The essay that hits closest to home is his essay on Joyce Cary's novels and their inventive method of retelling tales using the same characters, which Davies was to modify for his three trilogies.

Finally, the section entitled Robertson Davies gives you a personal glimpse into the writer at work, as well as the curmudgeon at play. The essay entitled "A Chat with a Great Reader" alone is worth the price of the book. In it, Davies recalls a conversation with a fellow at a party who claims to be a "Great Reader" and is delighted to meet Davies, a "Critic." The distinctions are quite telling, and an indictment on those who play at the game of knowledge and entertainment. While not everything here is as funny or insightful, these two to five page essays are the perfect compliment to your bedstand or reading chair, as bon bons to your main meal of words.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Chest of Gems
Robertson Davies lives up to his reputation as Canada's distinguished man of letters of the twentieth century.In addition to establishing his abilities as a novelist and a playwright, he reveals in the showcased selections in "The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies" how talented and perceptive a reviewer he was, covering a wide variety of writers and books.

Davies' superb economy of expression shines as the reader is treated to pristine vignettes about Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, James Agate, P.G. Woodehouse, Somerset Maugham, D.H. Lawrence and many others.His wit sparkles and he effectively and succinctly pinpoints the elements which made these writers succeed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Short essays and "plays" about everything
For the reader who has yet to read any Robertson Davies, this book is a great place to start.It is informative, easy reading that will frequently make you laugh.I recommend it highly.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is great non-fiction
Mr. Davies was a wise, interesting man.Much of his book is devoted to reviews of other author's books, but if you're curious about Mr. Davies himself, there is plenty of insight into his character.The essays are all intelligent, wise, and intriguing.Mr. Davies believed that most books are too long and could be shortened without affecting the quality of story.All these essays were written for a newspaper - Mr. Davies had a lot to say and very little room to say it.It is the economy of his words that carry the day.It's always a pleasure for someone to practice what they preach.Bravo. ... Read more

9. Murther and Walking Spirits
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 352 Pages (1992-12-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$5.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140168842
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Catching his wife with his one-time colleague, Gil Gilmartin is murdered by the latter and lingers on as a ghost who must spend his afterlife sitting next to his killer at an otherworldly film festival. Reprint. NYT. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

1-0 out of 5 stars Very disturbing prose butchery
I am told that Robertson Davies has written good books. This book is not one of them and now I, for one, will probably never find out about the others. At times the book rises to mildly entertaining competence, especially in the first 30 pages or so.

This book should be banned unless the middle section that attempts to emulate James Joyce is excised. The chapter is a travesty. It is painful to read, both because of the miserable stylistic failures which only serve to illuminate Davies' inadequacies as a writer; and out of sympathy for the author who seems like a nice guy and should not have such a literary legacy to besmirch his name. It is astonishing that a published author could write such miserable tripe and allow it to be included in his work, it is troubling that an editor and publisher would do him the disservice of allowing it to go forth and afflict mass readership. The book might have warranted two whole stars were it not the context for such a miserable debacle.

The end of the book constitutes an horrific attempt at evoking no less a personage than Goethe- a triumph of chutzpah that surpasses even the iniquity of the Joycean chapter. One leaves this book with a feeling that one must do literary penance for having read it, or perhaps undertake a sort of ritual cleansing.

3-0 out of 5 stars Murther and Walking Spirits
This book is not intellectually demanding, but for what it is, is light, pleasant reading.It gives one person's view of Canadian history from 1776 to the present, weaving the dead (but participating) protagonist's forbears into a plot laced with sympathy and occasionally wry (Canadian?) humor.I found it a rewarding read, and don't hesitate recommending it to others with an interest in history and Europe's contribution to modern-day North America.

1-0 out of 5 stars It's Like a Film Festival in Purgatory
My quick advice: if you love Davies and you've read absolutely everything else, nothing I say will stop you.

If you love Davies and there's something else you haven't read, go read it before this one.

If you haven't read Davies, please, please don't start here because this is awful and just not indicative of what a great writer he is.

Davies was clearly touched by a bit of nostalgia, did some digging into his family tree and then decided to build a long boring story around it. The book is deceptive because it starts out as a murder and you expect to witness the ghost inflict revenge in some cunning fashion. No such excitement. Try two hundred years of immigrant movements disguised as one of those excruciating never ending black and white marathon film festivals. If this makes no sense the book probably won't either.

1-0 out of 5 stars The good the bad and the just plain crappy
My name is Igor Turzo and I come from Forigien Land. In my country this would be master peice but IN CANADA:What a piece of crap!this book had no hook, this book has no scholarly reviews online, I WAS FORCED TO READ THIS GARBAGE FOR GRADE 12 ENGLISH AND I CAN"T FIND ANY REVIEWS FOR IT. THIS SHOWS HOW POPULAR THIS BOOK WAS. Davies really lulled me to sleep. way to go, this is the number one reason why canadian authors stay as minority writers. I Suggest never reading this mind numbing book. Thank you for ur time in reading my own scholarly review

4-0 out of 5 stars Great book, albeit "roughly translated"!
An interesting book, I really enjoyed it. Who else but R. Davies could kill off his main character in the first sentence, and then chronicle the experiences of the disembodied ghost for over three and a half hundred pages... and yet keep it increasingly interesting? He does it. Incidentally, Davies believed that physical death would not spell the annihilation of the animating spirit of man (a belief to which I am in full agreement). He once speculated about his own afterlife by saying: "I haven't any notion of what I might be or whether I'll be capable of recognizing what I've been, or perhaps even what I am, but I expect that I shall be something." Murther is a really interesting fictional account of what that "something" might be like.

The moment that Connor Gilmartin is struck dead in his own bedroom by his wife's lover, he finds that he is still alive! Perhaps even more alive than he has ever been; he is in a state that the opening chapter calls "roughly translated". He's a ghost; a walking spirit. This new state is fraught with all manner of possibilities and limitations. For one thing, his powers of awareness and observation are heightened, but he is unable to communicate with any of the living, no matter how he jumps up and down or shouts in their ear. And for that typically Robertsonian twist, the great author borrows an idea from the Bhagavad Gita which states that after death one maintains a connection with what one was thinking about at the moment of death. (It behoved a man to be concerned with what he was thinking of as he died)! So... what was Connor Gilmartin thinking of at that moment? Well, he was processing the fact that he had just caught his wife involved with a man (a co-worker) whom he particularly despised for many reasons, and secondly, he was thinking of a particular work-related problem concerning an upcoming Film Festival in Toronto to which this man (his murderer) was vying with him for position as lead writer. Now Connor is dead, aware of his wife's duplicity in covering up the murder but unable to vindicate himself in any way, and furthermore he is bound inextricably to his own murderer who attends the Film Festval as lead writer in his place. In a surreal twist, at the Film Festival, what Connor views on the screen is not what the others are seeing, but rather it is a documentary of his own ancestry... (one's life flashes before one's eyes??) He is seeing something wholly personal. After the festival he is instantly translated back to see how his wife is winding up her affairs... he sees that she has actually found a way to profit from his untimely demise. This story was great right to the end... with the disclaimer that in my opinion it is important to remember it as a fanciful rather than a literal view of what happens after your last breath. He raises a lot of interesting things to think about though. Not the best example of Davies' work, but still worthy of four and a half stars to the best Canadian writer ever. ... Read more

10. The Manticore (Penguin Classics)
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 336 Pages (2006-02-28)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$8.79
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 014303913X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Hailed by the Washington Post Book World as "a modern classic," Robertson Davies’s acclaimed Deptford Trilogy is a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven. The Manticore—the second book in the series after FifthBusiness—follows David Staunton, a man pleased with his success but haunted by his relationship with his larger-than-life father. As he seeks help through therapy, he encounters a wonderful cast of characters who help connect him to his past and the death of his father. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Davies' most acclaimed novel in many respects; not my favourite, but still very good.
Robertson Davies, arguably the greatest Canadian author of the 20th century (certainly of the middle period), was in many ways rather critically underappreciated.In his high period he wrote six major novels that formed two complete trilogies ("Deptford" and "Cornish") in the 1970s and 1980s, yet for only one of those did he win Canada's highest literary prize, and he was only shortlisted for the Booker Prize once in his whole career."The Manticore", the second book of the Deptford Trilogy, earned him the Governor General's Award for Fiction.

Somewhat longer than the preceding novel, "Fifth Business", "The Manticore" focuses on a minor character from the first book, David Staunton, the son of Boy Staunton.Whereas the first book was framed as a letter written by Dunstan Ramsay, this book (consisting of three sections, the middle of which takes up most of the pages) is primarily notes and diary entries by the younger Staunton.Still dealing with the death of his father, Staunton journeys to Zurich to seek psychological help.Disdaining Freud, he finds himself working with a Jungian (an equally obsolete theory, but packed with great literary symbolism), and recounts his life.Most of the novel covers the same chronology as "Fifth Business", only advancing beyond that period in the last 40 pages or so.The relationship between the two books is interesting:the former can stand by itself perfectly fine, but one would not be advised to read this story without the prior one.However, some information in the final section transforms how you interpret the conclusion of the first novel.

The extensive use of Jungian ideas in the novel could easily come across as pretentious or confusing in lesser hands, but Davies is nothing if not a deft employer of his own body of knowledge.You come away with a better understanding of the theory, and it all fits together quite well.The final pages provide further closure to past events, including a drolly amusing symbolic act by Ramsay.


4-0 out of 5 stars Great stuff if read as part of the trilogy
This is the second installment in the Deptford Trilogy, and my first bit of advice is that you read it in conjunction with Fifth Business, the first installment.I read Fifth Business years ago, and loved it, and struggled to remember the details of it as I began The Manticore.It isn't absolutely necessary to remember every word of the first in order to enjoy the second, but each one does help to accentuate the other.

The Manticore is great writing from a great writer.Davies prose is so fluid that they seem to absord into your mind with very little effort.He expresses complex thoughts in ways that are so graceful and elegant.And he's not afraid to deal with difficult themes; indeed, that seems to be his main purpose in writing.Yes, he tells a fascinating story, but his real aim is to get at the core of his characters, find out what motivates them and what makes them human.David Staunton is just the character to use for such an experiment.As an eminent lawyer, now undergoing psychoanalysis to determine where his life went astray, he puts himself on trial as if he were in a court of law and demands not just honest self-assessment but also evidence to support his conclusions about his own persona.It makes for a fascinating character sketch, and great reading.

There are no simple answers here to life's great questions, and that can be frustrating for those who want to be able to wrap a nice, neat bow around this book.Equally frustrating is the rather contrived ending, which includes the introduction of a new character whose purpose in the novel seems to be nothing more than to impart a valuable piece of wisdom to our main character.It also includes a journey into a deep cave, reminiscent of Plato's Republic, which is meant to reveal some profound life lesson but may just confuse and bewilder some readers.And, being the middle installment in a trilogy, this book doesn't have a proper beginning or ending.But that doesn't make it not worth reading.It just means that you should read parts one and three as well.

4-0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and beautifully written
This is my first Davies novel and I suspect I started with the wrong one in the series; however, MANTICORE was a fascinating read. In this, David Staunton comes to Zurich for psychoanalysis with a Jungian therapist after his father dies in a very strange accident.(Boy Staunton, his father, died in an auto accident with an egg sized stone of pink Canadian granite in his mouth) You think we're going to get a payoff on the mystery, which we eventually do, but we first have to go through Davey's life and get his personality integrated. The descriptions are very rich, which is a good thing because the book is mostly narrative.Despite sounding tiresome, the book for the most part is interesting and an enjoyable and challenging read. If you are a first time reader of Davies like me, I would suggest you start with the first book of this series, FIFTH BUSINESS before you read MANTICORE.

2-0 out of 5 stars It's just filler
I think the problem with this book is that Davies wrote the trilogy so that each book could stand by its own and that they need not be read in a particular order. While that sounded like a great idea initially, it seems to only work in theory. At least a half of this book is a blatant recap of Fifth Business, and most of the rest of it is an extrapolation into the very mundane. Everything that is unique to this book (because all three books have some exclusive content) is very non-consequential, and can be inferred or predicted by reading Fifth Business. The book is basically a very poor remake of Fifth Business, lacking an original story (also keeping in mind that Fifth Business has at least twice as many events), depth (F.B. is engrossed in psychology, philosophy and religion- in this book, it's all almost an afterthought, despite it revolving around a man seeking psychological help), and a good character- Davy is so one dimensional compared to Dunny, and even to Boy! The only reason you should read this is to get the "extended ending" that isn't included in F.B.- it reveals who killed Boy. But I'm sure that will also be discussed in World of Wonders.

While Fifth Business is one of my all-time favorite books, I wouldn't recommend this book, even if you like the other books in the trilogy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Complex & interesting!
The life of the protagonist--whom we previously knew just an appendage to his father's colossal persona in Fifth Business--is analyzed.The story has many sockets within sockets and abundant psychological theory.Robertson Davies is so artful sn author that the information on archetypes never feels as though it came out of an encyclopedia.Rather, it is essential to the character's trajectory.Highly recommended.Makes me proud to be a Canadian! ... Read more

11. The Salterton Trilogy: Tempest-Tost Leaven of Malice a Mixture of Frailties
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 808 Pages (1991-11-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$13.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 014015910X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (18)

4-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Well Written
I'd read the Cornish Trilogy and some of the Deptford Trilogy a few years before picking up the Salterton Trilogy.I read the Salterton books straight through, and enjoyed them.Unlike the other two, the Salterton Trilogy struck me as just a little dated, not because it doesn't discuss email or reflect recent political developments, but because social mores have changed somewhat over the last half-century, and so at times it seems a bit quaint.I could be quite wrong, but I suspect that even in a small, conservative Canadian town, folks may not be as prissy today as the characters in these books sometimes are.

Davies' style here also is "old school;" there's nothing experimental, or even modern, about his prose, which could have been written in the nineteenth century.But unless the reader would avoid any novels written more than twenty years ago as being too old fashioned (like some people won't watch a movie from the 1940s), none of this really detracts much from the experience, which is still a lot of fun.

Particularly compared with the other trilogies, the Salterton novels are light; there are many funny elements throughout the other trilogies, but the first two Salterton novels are frankly comedies, and the third is melodrama.The plots of all of them are rather slight, and in Leaven of Malice in particular, the ending is broadcast almost from the start. The characters, though, are very well developed, if a bit cartoonish.Davies is a masterful wordsmith, and excels at psychological detail.He delights in revealing imperfections; in fact, he seems unable to resist poking fun at all of his characters, so none of them comes off as particularly admirable, but at the same time none of these books shows any real darkness.

A number of the characters are found in each of the three novels, and there's just enough that ties them together to make reading them in order a good idea, so having the trilogy is convenient.

3-0 out of 5 stars Should Be the Last Davies Book You Read
I am an incredible Davies fan, and have lived in and/or travelled to many of the places he writes about.This trilogy takes place in "Salterton", a thin veiling for Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and Queen's University, located there.

Unlike his other university-set novels, Salterton features contempt for the frivolity of faculty and persons who live in a small town.While not entirely inaccurate in his portrayal of a small university-centered Canadian town, it doesn't relish academia in the way that the Cornish trilogy does.

As always, the pages are rife with attention to detail and tangential storylines are fleshed out with loving care.It is as if seven or eight short stories collide into three great novels.If you enjoy these, I strongly recommend the Deptford and Cornish trilogies; both are better examples of Davies' literary gifts.

4-0 out of 5 stars Quaint? I think not
Robertson Davies' "Salterton Trilogy" is a well-written, often funny and sometimes poignant look at the realistically odd occupants of Salterton, the deceptively quaint Canadian city with two cathedrals and one university.

"Tempest-Tost" opens with the organization of an amateur production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." A motley crew of actors join it, including an exuberent professor, his quiet daughter, a quiet mama's boy, a beautiful rich girl, a womanizing soldier, and an infatuated schoolteacher. Love, ambition, jealousy and infatuation rapidly tangle together, climaxing in an unusually dramatic opening night.

"Leaven of Malice" is half satire and half mystery. The Salterton Bellman announces that Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace are engaged -- the only problem is that it isn't true. Professor Vambrace sees it as a personal affront, and sues the paper. Pearl and Solly are haunted by false rumors, reports, and claims about who faked the announcement. All they can do is try to find out themselves.

"Mixture of Frailties" opens with the death of Solly's domineering mother. Her will leaves money to Solly's family only if he produces a male heir with his wife Veronica (previously known as Pearl); until then, her money is to be used in a trust for a young female artistic hopeful, who will go to Europe for a few years to study whatever she is good at. And finding the right girl is only the start of Solly's problems.

The tone of the Salterton Trilogy is lighter and less introspective than Davies' other books. Sometimes it's outright hilarious (there's a girl called The Torso, for crying out loud!). The first book is perhaps the funniest and most real-seeming, but it's also rather unfocused because there is no plot. The second and third books are tighter, but a little more rarified in humor and a little more surreal in tone.

Solly Bridgetower is the unacknowledged center of the trilogy. He barely registers in "Tempest-Tost," but becomes the central figure of the second and third books. He's not a strong person, but he is a likable one. Pearl is only a little more prominent at first, but it's great to see her break out of her shell and become her own person. And without a doubt, Humphrey Cobbler is Davies' best character -- a vivid, devil-may-care artistic genius who winks and nudges in every book.

The Salterton Trilogy is often eclipsed by Davies' better-known Deptford Trilogy, but that doesn't mean it's bad. By no means. It's a pleasant and warmly amusing trio of interconnected stories, and ones you won't forget in a hurry. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars The wonder and fun starts here
This is Davies first trilogy, and, if I remember correct, his first novel was the lead-off to this, Tempest-Tost. Before writing novels, however, Davies had written several plays, so his first novel is quite accomplished. The Salterton trilogy is almost misnamed--yes, it does center around the town of Salterton, but the real center of the three books is Solomon Bridgetower. Although he is almost a minor character in the first book, he and his family are front stage in books two and three.

Tempest-Tost is about an amateur production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Salterton players assume they can have the use of the garden of their most famous citizen, and it is this assumption of community use that leads them into trouble. While no characters in the book undergo a sea-change, several characters do awaken from passive slumber to new lives, sometimes with mixed results. For anyone who has ever been involved in amateur theater, this is an extremely amusing tale. Others might find it belabored.

Not so with the second novel, which is about class and prejudice, but told in a Wodehousian manner. Winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour (a Canadian award for best humor novel--I wish I could find a list of past award winners), Leaven of Malice concerns an engagement announcement in the local paper that was placed by neither bride nor groom. The resulting conflict between the two families brings up old academic rivalry, the worst of the new goody-two-shoe couple in town, and an escalation of lawyers. In some ways it is a mystery, too, as the two "lovers" attempt to find who had the malice to link their names in the public eye.

The concluding volume, A Mixture of Frailties, is about a trust established by Solomon's mother, and how it must be awarded to a specific individual. But finding the individual is only the start of Solomon's trouble, and the story follows two separate lines: one regarding Solomon and his need for a heir to rid himself of his mother's legacy, and one regarding the lucky trust recipient, and her entry into the world of opera.

There were certain things near to Davies' experience, it seems: theater, academic life, and trusts. Trusts can be found in both A Mixture of Frailties and the second and third books of the Cornish trilogy, academic life is featured in Leaven of Malice and The Rebel Angels, and theater productions in Tempest-Tost and The Lyre of Orpheus. I can easily see myself rereading Davies in ten years, and rediscovering all of this once again.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Beach Book Ever
And I don't actually mean that in a derogatory sense.What Ido mean is that the Salterton Trilogy is a compelling romp of a read with enough intelligence and wit to cause one to want to read it in front of the fire come February.BUT...you can put it down and pick it up again weeks later and not feel disconnected.
I came rather late to Robertson Davies (university age), even though I grew up in Toronto and even went to Trinity College, U of Toronto, the fictionalized setting for "Rebel Angels"; my problem was that we were force-fed "Fifth Business" in high school.I hated the book (as it was taught, at least) so much that I never wanted to have anything else to do with Robertson Davies, ever.Fortunately, a friend in my sophmore year urged me to pick up Tempest-Tost, and a die-hard convert was born.Again, perhaps.The Cornish Trilogy is certainly more complex, and the Deptford astonishingly onion-like in its layers, but the Salterton is the most fun.Although the town of Salterton (in reality Kingston, Ontario, a charming old Loyalist city on the river) seems to exist as a somewhat rarefied sugarplum of 1950s sensibilities and prejudices, the characters are remarkably believeable and personable, the plots well paced and the action eminently suited to a comfy chair and a cup of tea.

The best characters in Tempest-Tost are Freddie Webster and Hector Mackilwraith, but Humphrey Cobbler is perhaps the most memorable.He manages to assert himself in all three of the books, if memory serves correctly, and it's a good thing.He is the epitome of the mad musical genius without being a complete cariacture.

The Salterton Trilogy is a perfect introduction to a great Canadian author, and a great cheer-up if life has been treating you shabbily. ... Read more

12. A Voice from the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 368 Pages (1990-09-01)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$30.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140120815
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Outlining the delights of reading, the author tells of what mass education has done to readers, to taste, to books and to culture. The book covers writers from various countries and old and recently-published books, both well-known and obscure. From the author of "What's Bred in the Bone". ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars A foundation for understanding the evolution of modern literature
This book is great.Davies has provided a witty piece of literary criticism that informs the reader about avenues of literary bliss they would likely never have heard of anywhere else.I'm not a Canadian, but I didn't feel he dwelt excessively on topics of specific interest to Canadians.What he did do was point me in the direction of literary genres that are treasure troves of novel reading material, in which one can find the basic storylines and devices that still form the "meat and potatoes" of modern fiction, visible in everything from Tommy Boy to Phillip K. DIck.Personally, the most valuable thing I've taken from "Voice" is an interest in reading plays, and, in particular, pantomimes and drawing room plays.By pointing out that our current culture is ignoring volumes of great literature just because it isn't "current", Davies isn't criticizing todays authors or being stuffy in the least.He's merely pointing the way to an immensely valuable reservoir of work that is ours to appreciate or abandon.

3-0 out of 5 stars An impassioned plea for better readers
Although billed as a collection, this series of essays holds its own as an extended monologue. Davies, as erudite a reader and writer as you will ever discover, is not for the faint of head. In his argument here, he attempts to describe why reading--intense, concentrated reading--can be valued as art. The likely argument against this idea is that reading is not an act of creation, which art aspires to. He quickly deflates that argument with a description of reading that could apply just as well to performance art.

Although some of the writers he mentions here will likely be unknown to modern readers (they were certainly unusual to me), the points he makes are universal. We are in need of this even more today than when it was written.

4-0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and engaging
This book is an extrememly thoughtful commentary on the nature of reading and what it means to be a bibliophile, especially in today's age. It can come across as somewhat stuffy and self-important, but Robertson Davies' thoughts and opinions are varied and resonating enough to overcome that.He doesn't capitulate to the lowest common denominator, or present reading as a pursuit only worthwhile if one reads a predetermined list of "great books". his chapter on humour and comedic writing throughout the ages is priceless. It isn't a book for everyone, but it's a welcome relief from the endless parade of critics who typecast the typical reader as "nobody' if they haven't read a set list of prerequisite books.

1-0 out of 5 stars stuffy, typical
Conservative, stuffy voice, uncomfortable with new and innovative literature, about 200 years behind the times... And also the whole canadian bit alienates readers because its only interesting to canadians of courseand nobody really cares outside of there. And he talks as if he's on thelevel of some of the greates writers but really he is pretty mediocrecompared to the mad writing of the greats of now (DFW, Pynchon, Powersetc.).

3-0 out of 5 stars An arrogant flair on a high horse!
Oh, yes.This is a wonderful look at a side of the man only matched by Samuel Marchbanks.Not only does he comment on books and authors with cinicism and arrogance but manages to do so without losing the reader (atleast it was so in my case).This is not a book for the sentimental booklover but a sturdy piece for the hardy.And all things said, if you getthrough it without bursting you'll go there again. ... Read more

13. Mud and Magic Shows: Robertson Davies's <I>Fifth Business</I> (Canadian Fiction Studies series)
by Patricia Monk
Paperback: 88 Pages (1992-07-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$11.66
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1550221280
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Product Description
Canadian Fiction Studies are an answer to every librarian's, student's, and teacher's wishes. Each book, about 80 pages in length, contains clear, readable information on a major Canadian novel. These studies are carefully designed readings of the novels; they are not substitutes for reading them. Each book is attractively produced and follows the same format, so students will know exactly what to expect:

A chronology of the author's life The importance of the book Critical reception Reading of the text Selected list of works cited ... Read more

14. High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 208 Pages (2002-08-27)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$22.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0142002461
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Robertson Davies first hit upon the notion of writing ghost stories when he joined the University of Toronto's Massey College as a Master. Wishing to provide entertainment at the College's Gaudy Night, the annual Christmas party, Professor Davies created a "spooky story," which he read aloud to the gathering. That story, "Revelation from a Smoky Fire," is the first in this wonderful, haunting collection. A tradition quickly became established and, for eighteen years, Davies delighted and amused the Gaudy Night guests with his tales of the supernatural. Here, gathered together in one volume, are those eighteen stories, just as Davies first read them. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars "High Spirits" highly rated.
Robertson Davies is an excellent writer. Original, highly imaginative, and possessed of an engaging style. "High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories" is penultimate evidence of that. Christopher Plummer, who reads the stories, is an actor of long standing excellence. Quite simply, no one could match his work in reading these stories. Nuanced, varied, and unfailingly engaging, Plummer's work is not simply reading. He creates characters, atmosphere, and a sense of time and place which is unequalled by anyone who practices the craft of narrating stories. He does not simply narrate. Nor does he merely excellently act the parts he reads. He tells the story with the authority and feeling of one who is creating the story as he tells it. An excellent read by itself,"High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories" is a vacation to listen to. One to which I have returned many times to marvel and enjoy the unparalleled work of two artists.

3-0 out of 5 stars A romp through the graves of academe
What a fun book this is!These pieces, originally written for the amusement of his colleagues from the early 60s to the late 70s, work just fine as cozies for an educated general audience.The stories are literate, if somewhat samey, and very droll, in that understated Canadian way reminiscent of Stephen Leacock.It would indeed be great to have an audiotape of this, as many of the passages beg to be read aloud.Some fair use excerpts:

"Women always think that if they tell a man not to be pompous that will shut him up, but I am an old hand at that game.I know that if a man bides his time his moment will come."

"I am a democrat.All of my family have been persons of peasant origin, who have wrung a meagre sufficiency from a harsh world by the labour of their hands.I acknowledge no one my superior merely on grounds of a more fortunate destiny, a favoured birth.I did what any such man would do when confronted with Queen Victoria; I fell immediately to my knees."

"The devil gave me a look which made me profoundly uneasy.'Just because I am enjoying your sympathy, don't imagine that I cannot read you like a book,' he said.'You think you are cleverer than I; it is a very common academic delusion.'"

I'm unfamiliar with Davies' "serious" works, but any major writer who isn't afraid to show his readers a good time is all right with me.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great fun!
Every story in this book is a joy. Davies spoofs himself, as, in his persona as Master of Massey College of the University of Toronto, he narrates them. It seems that there is something about Massey College that is attractive to ghosts, famous, infamous and not famous at all. "Every part of our great University strives for distinction of one kind or another, but it is everywhere admitted that in the regularity and variety of our ghostly visitations Massey College stands alone." Even Little Lord Fauntleroy puts in an appearance! Splendid stuff.

2-0 out of 5 stars For Hardcore Davies Fans Only
The prospect of Davies penning ghost stories delighted me, so I purchased High Spirits for my annual October spooky reading.These stories are fun, but there's no getting around the fact that I was hugely disappointed.They are comic, not scary or even groteque.They were written to entertain his colleagues and students, and they are kind of dull for the general public...especially as the premise is basically the set-up for all 18 stories.Nevertheless, even without enjoying the tales themselves, Davies never fails to be an engaging writer, and his first person narration is often clever and amusing in his own unique style.Worth the read, but for Davies fan's only.

3-0 out of 5 stars 5 stars if Massey is your alma mater, 3 if it isn't.
By "High" Spirits in the title, Davies' is referring to the fact that the ghosts in these stories are most often of lofty earthly lineage. They are "highly" extracted. In these 18 stories we meet the ghosts of King George the V and VI of Great Britain, Queen Victoria, Sir John A. MacDonald, Saint George of Cappadocia, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and John Strachan (founder of Massey College) to name but a few. These are no ordinary run-of-the-mill random ghosts, and these are not "scary" ghost stories. They are moreso HUMOROUS and were meant originally to entertain guests at the annual Gaudy Nights held at Massey College when Davies was Master there.

While these stories are very well-done (original and highly inventive) and no doubt caused quite a stir in their time, to read them now seems quite dated. The inferences and specific allusions to college life are lost on the modern reader who may not have a conversational grasp of Canadian political history, or a knowledge of the finer points of Massey College's quadrangles and inner sanctums. All in all, these stories are best TOLD to their original hearers... a few times I had the sense that I would have liked to have been in attendence as Davies' recited these to his guests. But to sit and read them nowadays?... I don't know, at the end of each story I sort of felt like... "so what?" I am a big fan of Davies' writing, but this is not a book I would highly recommend to anyone getting to know his work. ... Read more

by Robertson. Ed. Judith Skelton Grant Davies
 Hardcover: Pages (2001)

Asin: B002EFZ2I4
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars For Your Eyes Alone by Robertson Davies
Robertson Davies was 82 years old when he died on 12-2-1995 from
a leaky heart and terminal pneumonia. He is one of Canada's most
famous writers of belles lettres literature having multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize.

Some of his best works are Dr. Canon's Cure, What's Bred in the Bone, Jezebel and The Merry Heart. He had 26 honorary degrees.Memorable quotations from his letters are as follows:

- " Writers are an extremely contentious group and old age
does not make them any more peaceful."

- "Sampson should have stayed away from the Barber Shop. "

- "The great leap for writers is in their 40s. They either
gain new energy or go to pot. "

- "Ye have the poor always with you. "Jesus Christ

A strength of this work is that it shows the deeply personal
side of Robertson Davies. He wrote many letters and discussed
small talk and consequential issues in most of them. The book
is well worth the price for the huge value of the letters
contained .The letters are written with considerable wit
and satire. The humor is not unlike British journalistic satire. When you've finished reading this book, it will become apparent why the author is so sorely missed.

4-0 out of 5 stars Gems galore
It's startling how thoughtful, evocative and just plain funny a man can be in writing his regular correspondance.Makes you want to be a prolific letter-writer yourself.Makes you wish he were still alive so that you could respond to some of the more inflammatory things he says.

I don't think I'd realized quite how much Davies was concerned about the "place" of Canadian Literature in the world literature canon; it comes out so plainly here.

Judith Skelton Grant, who edited the letters, is mentioned repeatedly in them -- Davies apparently was amused, worried and sometimes just ticked off about the biography she was writing of him.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Opportunity For More Insight
I enjoyed this book's organization, which was established by the various books Davies had written over the last part of his career.While not Canadian, and thereby somewhat in the dark regarding some of the letters' recipients, I found the editor's annotations brief but helpful.The main draw here is the author's distinctive voice, which emerges within the various letters.

I am not usually interested in reading compilations of letters.Here, however, I find a volume that constitutes a diversion from my other reading, a book which I can pick up from time to time and garner ideas for those brighter days when I re-read a Davies' novel. For this end, I found the collection worthwhile! ... Read more

16. World of Wonders (Penguin Classics)
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 352 Pages (2006-02-28)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$9.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0143039148
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Hailed by the Washington Post Book World as "a modern classic," Robertson Davies’s acclaimed Deptford Trilogy is a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven. World of Wonders—the third book in the series after The Manticore—follows the story of Magnus Eisengrim—the most illustrious magician of his age—who is spirited away from his home by a member of a traveling sideshow, the Wanless World of Wonders. After honing his skills and becoming better known, Magnus unfurls his life’s courageous and adventurous tale in this third and final volume of a spectacular, soaring work. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars good books bad ordering proceedures
The books were fine. The web site/order process was another matter. I ordered 4 books and should have received free shipping. When I tried to change the shipping address the web site wouldn't let me. instead it put the order through though I didn't request it too. Since one of the books was to be a present that week, I had to order another copy, paying $10.++ instead of $4.++, plus a few more dollarsin postage due when a forwarded book arrived.

4-0 out of 5 stars Overview of "World of Wonders"
The theme of the novel "World of Wonders" by Robertson Davies, is "search for self"(Warlton 4) Through ought the novel, there is a constant search for who the main character, Mangus Eisengrim, truly is. The majority of the novel is Mangus telling his life story. During this story, Mangus lives "four different lives"(Warlton 5) First he was born with the given name Paul Dempster, a Reverend's. At the age of ten he ran away with the carnival and became Cass Fletcher and controlled a mechanical card-playing machine as a carnival act. Later he named himself Fastus LeGrand and worked as a stunt double in a travelling play. He finally became Mangus Eisengrim, a world famous illusionist. Countless times during his story he asks the question, "Who was I?"(61).

At the beginning of Paul Dempster's life there was no trouble with who he was. He was born prematurely and so, right from the start, he was a survivor. He also was a Reverend's son, and his mother was known to others as a "hoor"(24). He knew exactly who he was, but anted to be someone else. After running away with the carnival, or as he said "The carnival ran away with me.", he recalls that he was "prepared to do anything rather than go home." At the carnival he became known as Cass Fletcher. This initial change in who he was was the first sign that there was a conflict with who he was.

His time spent as Cass Fletcher, roughly eight years, was the most conflicting time of his life. In the carnival Cass operated a card-playing machine called "Abdullah"(49). He would sit inside the machine spy on his opponent's cards and slip better ones into Abdullah's hand. At point in his life Cass spent most of his time inside this contraption, perfecting his spying and card slipping and when he ate, and that was seldom, he would do it inside Abdullah as well. He was almost never seen or spoken too. This neglect and abuse led him to believe that he was nobody. He mentions "I was Nobody... I did not exist.". At this time his "search for self" came to the most obscure solution possible. He believed himself to be Nobody. However, when he was seen and acknowledged, it was mostly when he was on stage as "Abdullah, the undefeatable card-playing machine". This caused him to think that when he was not Nobody, he was Abdullah. His answer to "Who [am] I?" was either Abdullah, an inanimate object and a machine to trick an audience, or nobody at all. It wasn't until he was about eighteen, when the carnival he was working for went out of business, that he escaped being trapped in Abdullah. He moved to France and became a street performer. His fake passport had "Fastus LeGrand" as his name. So finally he was no longer, and would never again be, Nobody.

Early in Fastus LeGrand's career as a street performer he was offered a job as an actor in a play called "Scaramouche"(162). He was hired as a stunt double for a man named Sir John. All Fastus had to do was walk a tightrope and juggle some plates, but he had quite a problem imitating Sir John. A fellow actor said that he couldn't "get Sir John's rhythm."(167). As he began to get the idea, he realized that he was again hiding from the audience as he had done with Abdullah.

Was this to be another Abdullah? It was, but in a way I could not have foreseen. Experience never repeats itself in quite the same way. I was beginning another servitude, much more dangerous and potentially ruinous, but far removed from the squalor of my experience with [Abdullah]. I had entered upon a ling apprenticeship to an [egotism].

Fastus had to become Sir John. Eventually he succeeded, so much so that he was later accused of eating Sir John. "You ate Sir John... You ate the poor old ham."(224). Another crisis in his identity. Fastus learned to walk, act, speak, move, stand and probably even blink exactly the same as Sir John himself. During Fastus's time with the play he was known to most as Mungo Fetch. The name was decided on by other actors who thought it sounded appropriate for a man whose job it was to copy someone else. Fastus LeGrand, the only name he picked for himself, was thought to be far too noticeable, and a stunt double was to be kept secret. Again he needed to be hidden from the world. But when Sir John retired, Fastus was no longer Mungo Fetch, nor Sir John. He was beginning to win himself back. Once again, he was known only by a single name. But "Fastus LeGrand was still not who [he] truly was, or who he was meant to be."(Pierce 318)

Soon after Fastus stopped acting in Scaramouche, he was hired to fix toys for an old rich man. It took months just to fix a single toy because of the minute tinkering took to perfect the movement. But there were hundreds of toys that needed to be fixed. So Fastus spent almost every waking hour of his time working on them. Thus, he had virtually no contact with the outside world. He was even given residence with his employer, so he didn't even have to leave the old mans mansion. Now, instead of hiding behind Abdullah or Sir John, he was hiding behind his work. It was during his time fixing toys that Fastus changed once again. As he continued fixing toys for the old man, Fastus met the old mans niece, Lisel, whom he fell in love with. Since Fastus LeGrand was not his real name and he didn't care for it much they decided to change it again. Fastus would by no means return to being Paul Dempster, and even less so did he want to go back to Cass Fletcher. So Lisel named him Mangus Eisengrim. Becoming Mangus was the "final conflict with who he was."(Pierce 553) Mangus was finally rid of his former lives and had come to the end of his search for self. He had answered the question "Who [am] I?". He lived life as Mangus and became a world famous illusionist and eventually returned to acting, since he had such a skill with imitating people. He was, from then on, Mangus Eisengrim.

5-0 out of 5 stars a satisfying end to the trilogy
I've just finished a Davies marathon:the whole Deptford trilogy in 3 days.I think it a testament to Davies' great storytelling ability that I could not put down any of the three books.I suggest reading them in close succession because the second book (The Manticore) sheds a lot of light on the other two books.It's interesting that in this book (the 2nd), we get 250 pages or so written from the point of view of a minor character:Boy Staunton's son.If you stop to think about it, the whole trilogy is structured around the question "Who killed Boy Staunton," so it shouldn't be surprising to read an account by his drunken son, the famous lawyer of his counseling sessions in Zurich.Rarely does one find such well-drawn characters these days in novels -- by the end, you'll feel like you've known Paul Demster for years, along with the simian Liesl, level-headed Ramsey and of course Demster's character, Eisengrim.

This book is a bit "deeper" than the first two as we find ourselves transported to an almost magic-realism portrait of myth and fantastical events in the World of Wonders.I actually enjoyed the first two books more although I still think this last book is a master work.Occassionaly Eisengrim's recounting of his life gets a bit tedious, but only because we are dying to resolve the mystery which finally gets solved in the closing pages.All in all, a memorable trilogy and a gripping read by one of the great 20th century writers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Davies' Deptford Trilogy - A must-read
The only bad thing about Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy (FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, WORLD OF WONDERS) is that it had to end! Sparklingly clever, bawdy, poignant, erudite, and laugh-out-loud funny,Davies entertains in a wonderfully rich, old-world style.

A friend ofmine (who recommended the books, and to whom I will be forever grateful)put it this way: "Reading Robertson Davies is like sitting in a plush,wood-paneled library--in a large leather chair with a glass of excellentbrandy and a crackling fire--and being captivated with a fabulous tale spunby a wonderful raconteur."

5-0 out of 5 stars The greatest novel of the twentieth century
This is the best novel of the century's best English language novelist.The plot is sure-fire (kid runs away with the carnival), the characters memorable (sideshow freaks, revealed to be--human beings!theater people,great and small, revealed to be--human beings!), the sins enormous(pederasty, pride, perhaps even murder), the virtues marvelous (love,devotion to love).The theme of this book, as with the other books in thetrilogy, is search for self--the main character of this book lives fourdifferent lives during his life.This book works on every level; it readswell as a story, gives you something to think about, and stands up to anynumber of readings you'd care to give it.(I've given it at least five.) ... Read more

17. Conversations with Robertson Davies (Literary Conversations Series)
Paperback: 312 Pages (1989-04-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$12.12
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0878053840
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBERTSON DAVIES is a long overdue anthology of interviews with Canada’s most respected literary figure. Journalist, essayist, reviewer, playwright, and novelist, Robertson Davies has not only been a leading figure in Canadian literature since World War II, but, since the publication of FIFTH BUSINESS in 1970, he has become known throughout the world.

CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBERTSON DAVIES will be of interest both to the student of Canadian literature and culture and to the scholar examining Davies’s plays and novels as well as to the general reader who would like to know more about the awesome man behind the Salterton and Deptford trilogies, WHAT’S BRED IN THE BONE, and THE LYRE OF ORPHEUS.

A majority of this anthology of twenty-eight interviews has never before appeared in print. Along with these previously unpublished interviews, the reader finds a selection of the best print interviews: Tom Harpur of the TORONTO STAR proves Davies’s spiritual beliefs, Ann Saddlemyer looks into his dreams, and author Terence M. Green questions Davies on the supernatural. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting for Robertson Davies fans
For people who have loved reading Robertson Davies' books, this is an interesting and enlightening compendium of interviews with one of Canada's foremost men of letters.The reading itself is a little tedious at times (though Davies is always lively) and if you haven't read any of Davies' other books, don't start with this one. ... Read more

18. Reading and Writing (Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol 13)
by Robertson Davies
Hardcover: 64 Pages (1993-03)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0874804264
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Insightful to Motivating
As indicated, these essays were originally given as lectures. Forturnately they were saved and published. That in itself illustrates the various ways information can be produced and distributed. Being a communicator, I found what Davies had to say to be, what I would consider to be "informative to motivational."

In responding to inquiries about how to be a writer, Davies basically says writers are born. You either have the talent or your don't. He goes on to point out that art is elitist, not democratic, and in fact is older than the idea of democracy. The lesson one could infer from this is, discover your gift and cultivate it. Don't seek to be what you're not, build on your God given strengths. ... Read more

19. Robertson Davies's Cornish Trilogy: A Reader's Guide
by Victor J. Lams
Hardcover: 218 Pages (2008-03)
list price: US$70.95 -- used & new: US$48.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1433102285
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Robertson Davies’s Cornish Trilogy: A Reader’s Guide is the first book-length study of Davies’s best work: The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone, and The Lyre of Orpheus. In The Rebel Angels, Maria and Darcourt alternate in narrating the novel’s theme (obsession) before escaping from its grip by their mutual assistance, while other characters are less fortunate. What’s Bred in the Bone narrates the artistic development of Canadian painter Francis Cornish, which is crowned by his stunning Marriage at Cana, an iconographic presentation of his personal myth; a color reproduction of Bronzino’s Allegory exemplifies their stylistic kinship. While The Lyre of Orpheus is ostensibly focused on the completion and staging of an unfinished Hoffmann opera, it narrates the ameliorative personal development of the characters who interact during that project. ... Read more

20. The Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading Writing, and the World of Books
by Robertson Davies
Paperback: 400 Pages (1998-07-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$3.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 014027586X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Readers around the world continue to mourn the 1995 death of a beloved literary icon, but this rich and varied collection of Robertson Davies's writings on the world of books and the miracle of language captures his inimitable voice and sustains his presence among us. Coming almost entirely from Davies' own files of unpublished material, these twenty-four essays and lectures range over themes from "The Novelist and Magic" to "Literature and Technology," from "Painting, Fiction, and Faking," to "Can a Doctor Be a Humanist?" and "Creativity in Old Age." For devotees of Davies and all lovers of literature and language, here is the "urbanity, wit, and high seriousness mixed by a master chef" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)--vintage delights from an exquisite literary menu. Davies himself says merely: "Lucky writers. . .like wine, die rich in fruitiness and delicious aftertaste, so that their works survive them."
Viking will publish Robertson Davies' Happy Alchemy in July 1998 Many fine works by Robertson Davies are available from Penguin including The Deptford Trilogy, The Cornish Trilogy, and The Salterton TrilogyAmazon.com Review
The great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies spent his long life in love with books. This posthumous collection of two dozen essays stands as the lively recollections of a great reader: Davies talks praises the books he's loved, damns the books he's hated, and seeks to answer the eternal question of why we read books. And while Davies writes with great authority, he's thankfully never pedantic, and his comments about books, which range from children's titles to Ulysses, are always delivered in a charmingly unpretentious manner. The individual essays are all beautifully written, and cracking this book will no doubt encourage readers to track down many of the authors and titles that Davies covered. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Start here if you're writing a paper on Davies
This book offers about 20 lectures/speeches given by Davies over the last 15 years of his life and some other miscellaneous works.The lectures are full of Davies' characteristic grace, elegance, and humor.And they give insight to the themes he felt were of key importance - hence the title of this review.If, Gentle Amazon Reader, you have to write a paper on Davies' novels, grab a copy of this book to find out in his own words what he was trying to say and what he felt was important.

So why the two-star review?Blame it on the awful amount of repetition here.This is not a knock on Davies: he undoubtedly did not have time to compose totally unique lectures every time he was invited to speak - who would?As a result, the same theses, anecdotes, quotes and jokes are found in almost every chapter.The best are the lectures "Literature and Moral Purpose" and "A View in Winter: Creativity in Old Age". Read these two and the rest of the book is superfluous.

The publisher and editor should be ashamed to have concocted this overindulgent mess.It does not do justice to Robertson Davies and his high standards.

5-0 out of 5 stars My First Davies
You don't need to be familiar with Robertson Davies' work to enjoy this set of insightful talks and essays about reading, writing, and life in general. This has been my first exposure to his work (a gift from my mother-in-law), and I loved it. I'm now deeply interested in reading his other work. In fact, I bought the Deptford Trilogy, but haven't gotten to read it yet since my wife got ahold of it before I did.

4-0 out of 5 stars Reflections on reading, writing, and the world of books
It is usually a pleasure to sit down to a Robertson Davies work whether it be a novel, a collection of speeches, ghost stories, essays, or newspaper articles.The Merry Heart is a felicitous adddition to the Davies canon,containing his usual eclectic selection of literary topics and sparklingideas.Each chapter has a few introductory comments (often includingexcerpts from Davies' diary) by the book's editors that paint thebackground for each piece.Readers enjoy comparing notes about favoritebooks and biographical history, so for avid readers, The Merry Heart willbe like reading a series of letters from a funny, witty, learned friendabout some of those events and books that have shaped his life.This fine385 page book of 24 chapters is easy to read in bits and pieces, eitherduring a lunch break, before bed, or on a weekend next to the fire.(Onenote of caution: for those unfamiliar with Davies' worldview, do not besurprised to see elements of gnosticism popping up from time to time.)Allin all, this book was a real pleasure to read.

5-0 out of 5 stars The old man has done it again!!
When I read this collection it was as if the old friend was still alive.He is most certainly alive and kicking in this book.The book gives not only his honest view of books, authors and the literary world but alsoincludes yet another ghostly tale of mythological origin.Not only was this an informative read, as most of Davies' work is, it was also aheartfelt pleasure, and continues to be so, again and again and again.

4-0 out of 5 stars A welcome little addition to the Davies bibliography.
Two years after Robertson Davies' death, here is the unexpected gift of "The Merry Heart," a collection of essays, speeches and autobiographical reflections pulled together by his wife and daughter. They proceeded knowing Davies himself had considered such a project, and in doing so, they honor both his memory and his intentions.

Page after page, "The Merry Heart" offers delight and dissertation. From the charm of the opening essay, "A Rake at Reading," to the storytelling wit of the last piece, "A Ghost Story," Davies' distinctive voice covers as wide a range of topics as a sparkling dinner party. From the seriousness of Canada's continuing preoccupation with its sense of place and history in "Literature in a Country without a Mythology" and such timely discourses as "Literature and Technology" and "Literature and Moral Purpose" to the gems of "Christmas Books," "A View in Winter: Creativity in Old Age" and "An Unlikely Masterpiece," he is by turns critical, thoughtful, playful, reverent and above all, a proud bearer of the literary standard. ... Read more

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