Troublesome priests and professors

8 06 2019

The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies



Defrocked monks, mad professors, and wealthy eccentrics – a remarkable cast peoples Robertson Davies’ brilliant spectacle of theft, perjury, murder, scholarship, and love at a modern university. Only Mr. Davies, author of Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders, could have woven together their destinies with such wit, humour-and wisdom.

A cracking campus novel. Set in a really not that modern Canadian institution it does really have the lot as listed here. It’s finely written and really well paced and is, despite the deaths, every entertaining indeed. Looking forward to reading the next two in the trilogy.

And there are some striking contemporary resonances:


(With enormous thanks to Gaby Neher for lending me the book.)


four stars



Canadian classic

8 03 2008

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Deptford Trilogy

A really excellent novel which, although clearly lauded on publication nearly 40 years ago, seems to have become rather unfashionable over time. This, the first book in the Deptford Trilogy is narrated by Dunstan Ramsay, a teacher, who recounts his life experiences in an extended epistle to his former Head.

The root of a strange life lies with a snowball incident as a child and the consequences which flow from it for Dunstan, his best friend Percy ‘Boy’ Staunton and Mary Dempster who gives birth prematurely and seems to lose her mind as a result of being hit by the projectile intended for Dunstan. The guilt remains with Ramsay for the rest of his days and influences profoundly the course of his life and the consequences have equally dramatic effects on Boy and Paul Dempster, Mary’s son.

The style is clear and direct but the twisting tale is full of surprises in a shifting landscape. Great stuff – can’t wait to finish the next one.

4 star

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