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Rebel Angels (Cornish Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – January 5, 1982

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Frederick Davidson reads this multi-layered book with more or less success. On one level, Davies's novel is "about" four academics: Maria Theotoky, the brilliant, beautiful graduate student; her adviser, the ascetic Dr. Hollier; Simon Darcourt, the bon vivant priest; and Parlabane, once an outstanding scholar, now sycophant to his former classmates. Then there is the basic plot theme: Who will end up with the girl? Standard stuff. Yet the real focus here is on the spiritual and/or mystical personal explorations of the main characters. Unfortunately the story's lack of organizational coherence has a negative effect on the apparent striving for deeper meaning. In addition, while Davidson is an extremely competent reader of male voices, he makes the supposedly alluring Maria sound almost maternal. For all its imperfections, this book is a compelling performance. Recommended for moderate to large literature collections.?I. Pour-El, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


[Davidson] accomplishes the task of preserving this restless story with a flowing narration. He modulates the voice of Maria, a graduate student, separating her from male companions with expressive accuracy. His slight English accent and dry, earthy elocution soundly stir this fiction to its concluding moment. --AudioFile

A compelling performance. --Library Journal --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cornish Trilogy (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (January 5, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140062718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140062717
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robertson Davies is a Candian literary icon. His genius imbues all his writing - this most of all. With a wonderful narrative told from three characters perspectives, he weaves a story of the banality of academia (it reminded me of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum in this manner) along with characters that are both lovable and disgusting somehow.
Except for Maria. She is the beauty of the story, the woman who must endure the silly old academic men, but who herself needs to learn about who she is and to find her identity in the midst of insanity. Davies does not fully create a completely believeable female character in my opinion, but he comes close.
His humour is unmatched. Davies writes with a biting wit that cuts with razor sharpness. He uses an ironic narrative that will always not only make one laugh, but laugh thoughtfully. He makes us think of life and love. You can't help but be made to think.
This is one of Davies best, from one of the best writers Canada has ever produced.
Read and Enjoy!
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By A Customer on February 18, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's rare for a novel to be both thoughtful and rather light and frivolously entertaining--"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" comes to mind, and this book's got the same sort of attitude. At root it's a funny, erudite, gross and at times mean satire of academia as only an ex-academic could produce--the style is (I'm sure purposefully) reminiscent of Rabelais, who's mentioned herein so frequently. On the other hand, it's a charmingly not-too-serious meditation on the variety of paths to wisdom and ways of knowing. I was rather amused by the observation of one character that (I paraphrase) medieval thinking was a mix of muddled religion, folk belief and superstition, while modern thinking is a mix of muddled science, folk belief and superstition. Perhaps the best aspect of the book is the sheer wildness of its imagination, what with Gypsy instrument-stealers and all; it's not at all surprising that Davies was a theater ham as well (there's an indulgent nod to someone I presume is a real-life actor pal of his in here).
On the personal level, I think if I'd read this book at around age 18 it would've had enormous impact on me, both for the academic satire and for the gaining-wisdom thing; I would have taken both aspects far too seriously and probably have been obscurely burdened by the whole experience. Now it's just mostly good unclean fun.--J.Ruch
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Rebel Angels immediately entered my personal canon of favorite works of literature. Could it be the perfect novel? It features astounding characters, well defined and memorable (especially the unforgettable John Parlabane, almost as singular a character as Liesl in Davies' Deptford Trilogy). It features a page turning plot. I was initially hoping for a literary mystery, along the lines of Eco, when the "lost manuscript" is introduced. The plot doesn't exactly lead that way, but creates its own twists and turns, both comic and tragic.
Davies' fine novel is an erudite display of knowledge, philosophy, emotion. There are no blacks and whites, nor even shades of grey. Each character is peppered alternately both black and white...each an incredibly real person encompassing friendship and selfishness, good and evil.
This is the kind of novel you feel better for having read. It impressed me on each page; a great work of literature as well as a very enjoyable read.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
This is the first book of the Cornish series, and the worst of the three in most respects. The context of the story is set at an academic institution of higher learning, wherein all the vagaries of human personality are on display in the various faculty members and adminstrators. I suppose the purpose of this book, other than providing an entertaining story (which it definitely does) is to showcase some of the foibles associated with academics, and the politics that develop through the interactions of egos who consider themselves to be intellectually superior, but, once dissected, look much like anyone else. The setting of the book is a rather antiquated notion of a university, where professors live in their offices and shut themselves off from the real world. The strongest aspect of the book is the writing style, of which Davies is a master. On the flip-side the characters are rather one-dimensional (especially compared with the later two books), as the story focuses on merely one aspect of their personalities while losing sight of the entire essence of being. It's also not uproariously funny, as compared to other academic satires, such as Amis' Lucky Jim, Lodge's Small World, or Edwards' The Land-Grant, but still has a comic edge more of the black-humor variety. Still, negatives aside, the story is definitely entertaining and written in a high-minded style, with a strange ending that few will guess is coming.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Canada, being a small nation, hasn't produced that many first-rate literary minds, but among those she has Davies leads the pack. He was a Shakespearean actor, a playwright, a newspaper editor, a professor of English, a busy novelist, and head of a graduate college in Toronto, and it's the latter two semi-careers that figure most in this first volume of a satirical trilogy. (Davies did a number of trilogies.) There are three narrators who take turns leading the reader through events and we see each of them through the eyes of each of the others, which makes the whole story exist in multiple dimensions. Maria Theotoky is a Ph.D. candidate in medieval literature possessed of a formidable intellect and job-dropping beauty; she's also half Hungarian Gypsy and a very sympathetic character. She's in love (or thinks she is) with her mentor, Clement Hollier, a paleo-psychologist who attempts to understand why people in the past believed the things they did -- a fascinating approach to history. Hollier has a line on a lost manuscript of Francois Rabelais and his possible possession of it is making him a little crazy. And there's Simon Darcourt, an Anglican scholar-priest, inclined to stoutness, and an honest assistant warden of the college. Into this comfortably satisfying academic world comes John Parlabane, professional philosopher, failed monk, intellectual con-man, certifiable genius, and possibly a force for genuine evil. He has a knack for winkling money out of everyone he knows and of making others doubt their own abilities and beliefs. Among the other key characters are Urquhart McVarish, Renaissance scholar and thief, and Maria's mother, a Gypsy wise woman of the oldest type, a maker of exquisite violins, and a talented shoplifter.Read more ›
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