Customer Reviews: Rebel Angels (Cornish Trilogy)
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on October 1, 1997
If you have never read Robertson Davies don't worry, it's not too late. He is one of the wittiest, intelligent, erudite authors I know. Don't let the word "erudite" worry you into thinking that this is some impenetrable work written by some dusty sage for other academic literati. This, like all of his books, is a wonderful, wild ride through the weird world of academia, peopled by characters we would love to meet, set against a backdrop bejewelled with sparkling prose. I like to read Dick Francis and usually consume one of his novels in one sitting, I adore to read Robertson Davies and recently reread this whole trilogy during a single trans-world flight without sleeping. This story is a tale of lust, envy, deceit & hate scattered with gems of humour and highlighting again Davies' astonishing breadth of knowledge. A breathtakingly brilliant book, and fortunately, the first in a Trilogy. Do yourself a favour, buy the trilogy. Save time & money.
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on June 6, 2001
I've resisted this writer for years out of a silly bias against academic novels. This one has converted me (to Davies, if not the genre). The exaggerated eloquence of his characters goes down smooth, and the breadth of his erudition is breathtaking--from Gypsy violin repair practices to Gnostic gospels to human scatology to Rabelais. Further, the characters are truly memorable and likeable, beyond their lofty ideas. I find myself thinking often of Maria and Simon Darcourt and even the dreaded Parlabane. There are excesses--Urqhart's after hours activities are a bit much, and the bit about publishers and Parlabane strains credulity, but overall a wonderul, engrossing, edifying story. Excuse me, I have to go look up that Sophia person...
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on November 1, 1999
Book 1 of a triliogy since dubbed "The Cornish Trilogy". When I read it, I didn't know this -- which made picking up the next book so delightful, because some of Davies's warmest and most endearing characters grace the pages of this book. Although you have the feeling of the plot driving forward, and share the viewpoints of three different characters, when you stop to think about it, nothing much really happens. Lots of dialogue, another Davies trademark -- once a playwright, always a playwright.
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on October 27, 2003
The Rebel Angels starts off Robertson Davies's Cornish Trilogy by introducing us to a cast of characters and a mood that are the raw material of the collection of related stories. Davies is an author who utilizes a palette of archetypes, applying them again and again in successive snippets and passages. This first book of the trilogy serves as a kind of under-painting for the books that follow. It sets the stage and lays a foundation. But, like all under-painting, it is incomplete in itself. It needs the detail that comes from what follows. In a sense, then, this book is not truly complete apart from the other components of the trilogy. But, that said, in no way should the reader be dissuaded from reading this novel, for the rewards are deeper than the limitations.
Davies gives the reader a rich feast of characters and experiences, heightened and exaggerated, but never untrue. His pages welcome us into reflection upon the common chords of life found mirrored back to us by somewhat uncommon people in somewhat unusual places. A few of the characters stand out. Parlabane, for instance, gives us an annoying villain who is both disturbing and likable. Sometimes the tidy fence between goodness and evil seems to melt away in this story, leaving the reader a bit unsettled by the dark shadows within him or herself. This is, however, merely a minor - not too jarring - revelation of what we attempt to hide from ourselves. Robertson Davies gives us, in The Rebel Angels, an uncommon window upon the common human experience. If you are like me, you will find that you remember less of the details of this book than you feel that you have been reminded of the characters and experiences of your own life that sometimes too easily pass from notice.
I highly recommend this book; but only for those who are willing to commit to reading the whole of the trilogy. Without the other volumes, you will feel cheated. But with them, you will find yourself greatly enriched by having read The Rebel Angels.
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on January 22, 2016
I can't believe I lasted through this book much less wading though two more. To say it's boring is a great understatement. I can't understand what other reviewers saw in it except for the kinky sexual innuendo. There wasn't even any good sex scenes. Who wants to hear about a bunch of warped fallen clergy and their scatological perversions? There are way too many good books out there to waste time on this one. One star is being generous.
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on August 7, 1997
Having been assured that the Deptford Trilogy was Davies "best" work, I steered away from reading anything else until someone recommended "The Rebel Angels". What an utter delight! Once again I was drawn in by Davies exquisite use of language, obvious expertise in a thousand obscure subjects, and meticulous attention to detail. I meandered along for several chapters, satisfied, until I came upon the one chapter that knocked me on my heels! It is that way with Davies. You wander along through a perfectly good story and then he interjects a chapter of such brilliance and sweet surprise that from then on you can barely put the book down. How did a gypsy girl get into this thick story of the intimacies of University pedants? The Rebel Angels is another Davies triumph of surprising coincidences, exotic characters and lyrical writing. It is every bit worth the time it takes to discover it's secrets
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on June 13, 2016
I loved this book in high school, but I'd given away my copy to a boyfriend. I'm happy to finally have another copy to dive into again.
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on November 7, 1999
The author crafts the words very elegantly and delicately to make you aware of the simple pleasures provided by knowledge for the sake of knowledge. When a lost manuscript that Ravelais wrote to Parcelsus reappears in the state of a Millionaire, just to be immediately stolen, the reader might believe that the recovery of such document, is the core of the drama. Not really, it is a little element that puts the novel in motion, so that the writer can display very eloquently, why the existence of wit and humor depend on the tendency of human nature to mess up any type of idea, be it a complex issue such as the existence of God, or the if a particular color is fun to wear.
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on June 19, 1999
_The Rebel Angels_ is one of Davies' absolute finest novels, and a personal favorite. Davies, who at the time of writing was headmaster of Massey College at the University of Toronto, chose for the setting of the book that very campus (though all names have been changed to protect the innocent). The book is a lively romp through a sort of surreal parallel world of academia : defrocked monks, gypsy spells, corpulent priests, seductive graduate students, feces research, bawdy medieval humor, and an enormous dose of Davies' wit and wisdom. The book is a real treat.
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on February 11, 1998
I can't decide which I think is the best of Davies' novels: FIFTH BUSINESS or REBEL ANGELS. I was delighted by both stories and the wonderful wandering asides Davies takes into such unusual subjects. In the REBEL ANGELS, he tells his story through two characters - a beautiful young lady whose academic interests focus on Rabelais, Paracelsus, and other medieval writers, yet whose background is gypsy; and Professor the Reverend Simon Darcourt, a plump, middle aged priest turned college professor. Davies' shows the pertinence of the scatalogical element in our lives and his discussions are both tasteful and humorous. There is plenty of mystery and intrigue in the story to keep the reader's curiosity alert and the characters are most colorfully entertaining. Excellent reading.
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