Dunstan Ramsey and his "lifelong friend and enemy, Percy Boyd Staunton," are both aged 10. It is a winter evening in the small Canadian village of ...Show synopsisDunstan Ramsey and his "lifelong friend and enemy, Percy Boyd Staunton," are both aged 10. It is a winter evening in the small Canadian village of Deptford, and Ramsey and Boy have quarrelled. In a rage, Boy throws a snowball with a stone in it and hits the Baptist minister's pregnant wife by mistake. She becomes hysterical and later that night delivers, prematurely, a baby with birth defects. Even worse, she loses her mind. This secret guilt will bind Ramsey and Staunton together through their long lives. Boy, however, "would fight, lie, do anything rather than admit" he feels guilty, too, and so the subject remains unresolved between them right up until the night Boy's body is found in his car, in a lake, with a stone in his mouth.Hide synopsis
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Robertson Davies has written a wonderful book
with tragedy, humor and irony. Written in a letter form his protagonist experiences WW1, the crash of Wall Street, his best friend's marriage and its ultimate failure, and the guilt of causing the mental breakdown of a neighbor woman and taking on the responsibility of her life-long care.
Eventually he becomes a headmaster in a boys college where he begins to pursue a strong calling for hagiography which, inturn leads him to many other countries seeking icons of a type seen while fighting in France.
I liked the author's style and theme that holds the reader until the last page.
By the time I got ten pages into "Fifth Business," I knew that I wasn't going to be doing very much over the next few days but sit with Robertson Davies and let him spin his tale. This is an overwhelming story spanning decades but Davies manages to keep the story's focus on the few central characters, all of whom are fascinating individuals.
The first of three novels in the "Deptford Trilogy," this book paves the way to it's two "sequels'- the less successful "Manticore" and the astonishing finale, "World of Wonders," which loses, by a nose, the race for "best Davies novel" to this book, "Fifth Business."
It is not, I believe, hyperbole to declare that "Fifth Business" is one of the most important, engaging and enjoyable books produced in the last half-century. Don't believe me? Pick it up and see if you can put it down after the first few pages.
I'm betting you can't.
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