Lori's Book Nook

Robertson Davies

It’s come to my attention that we need a space to discuss Robertson Davies’ work. I’m a Canadian, with a book-related blog, so the onus seems to be on me.

So, we’ll start informally here, with sub-pages to this one.

First book discussion is here: The Fifth Business. It is the first in a the The Deptford Trilogy series — and if you read the first, you should read them all.

UPDATE (November 2010): Finally! I think it’s time we also chatted about The Cornish Trilogy. As I have said elsewhere, I think my favourite RD novel is the second in the trilogy, What’s Bred in the Bone. But the others are, of course, just as wonderful! Shall we begin?

“Who is Robertson Davies?” I hear the neophyte ask. Well, let’s start with some links, plus anyone can add comments to this page, adding their wonderfully subjective opinions!

Quite nearly his whole catalogue is available on Amazon, of course.

His Wikipedia entry.

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry.

Davies’ work is imminently quotable. So here are just two pages devoted to his quotes: one from Brainy Quotes, another from the Quotations Page. Oh, and another one, 15 pages of quotes from his books.


12 Responses to "Robertson Davies"

I suggest that we start with Fifth Business. Not only was it the first Davies novel I read, but I think it’s one of his best. It can really hook the reader from the first page, so I think it would be quite a good ‘starter’ book for neophytes.

It’s intelligent without being overly ‘high-brow’. In fact, this is something I’ve always enjoyed about Davies – his ability to present intellectual ideas in a very down-to-earth and accessable way that assumes a certain intelligence from the reader without ever alienating them.

Also, it will give me an excuse to read it again. 🙂

True. I’ll have to buy it again — I think I gave away my last copy…

Have you bought a new copy yet? I picked up my old copy of The Deptford Trilogy the other day and it literally fell apart in my hands. And when I tried ordering it from the bookshop here they said the trilogy wasn’t available and the separate novels were only available in hardback. Weird.

So I’ve just finished placing an order with Amazon UK. Got a really good deal – I found the trilogy on offer for 10 pounds. And then I saw under ‘recommendations’ Ursula Le Guin’s ‘Earthsea Quartet’ on offer for just 8 pounds. So I added that to the ol’ shopping basket. And then placed my order before I could do any further damage to my credit card.

Have you read all of RD’s novels?

I first read “The Rebel Angels” in college and you’ve reminded me to revisit it. Thanks!

That’s one on my list to read again soon. Well, the entire Cornish Trilogy. Just as soon as I’ve finished the last Harry Potter.

Isn’t The Rebel Angels just one of the best book titles ever?

“The Rebel Angels” is a great title — and a great book. Maria is a very meaty character, as is Parlabane.

@Christine — you’ve read the other books in the trilogy? I think my favourite Davies book is What’s Bred in the Bone, the second in the Cornish Trilogy.

Maria is definitely one of Davies more rounded female protagonists. Though he still does men way better, in my opinion. And Parlabane is right up there with Leisl for outrageousness, though in quite a different way.

I’d also agree that What’s Bred in the Bone is my favourite of that trilogy.

Christine, what other Davies novels have you read?

The Rebels Angels is brilliant.

John Parlabane’s letter is simultaneously one of the most hilarious and most disturbing things I’ve ever read. If that’s not great writing, I don’t know what is. The final line of it is a masterpiece in and of itself.

And Yerko is possibly the most hilarious character ever devised in any book, ever. His method of separating two fighting dogs had me rolling on the floor with tears in my eyes. That whole scene was genius.

I loved What’s Bred in the Bone, too, although I don’t recall it quite as clearly as RA. But the double-twist halfway through is brilliantly devised–you’re like, “Wow, I never would have guessed . . .” and then the real twist comes.

I also remember the part where he uncovers the fraud because of the monkey’s tail. That was pretty amazing.

I like The Lyre of Orpheus quite a bit as well. It’s not your average author who can write a good lesbian sex scene at the age of 75.

Welcome, Lawrence. I’m thinking I should start the Cornish Trilogy discussion here in a bit. I’ve not been the best at adding to my blog recently (learning the rhythms of a new job and all!), but if I’ve got another Davies fan hanging about…

Davies was just so intelligent — and a voracious reader. I read a speech by him to an art institute or some such in the states, where he was talking about forgery, and his influences for What’s Bred in the Bone…then I found a couple books on this famous forger he’d discussed, so I read up on him. Following the trail of Davies’ inspiration.

And yes, ’twas a pretty good lesbian scene! :p

I don’t understand why Robertson Davies’ books aren’t on kindle. I don’t know who his literary executor is, but a huge opportunity is being missed. Does anyone have any information in that regard?

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Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!
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