- Series: Deptford Trilogy
- Paperback: 825 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised ed. edition (October 1, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140147551
- ISBN-13: 978-0140147551
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 218 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business; The Manticore; World of Wonders Paperback – October 1, 1990
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"Who killed Boy Staunton?"
This is the question that lies at the heart of Robertson Davies's elegant trilogy comprising Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders. Indeed, Staunton's death is the central event of each of the three novels, and Rashomon-style, each circles round to view it from a different perspective. In the first book, Fifth Business, Davies introduces us to Dunstan Ramsey and his "lifelong friend and enemy, Percy Boyd Staunton," both aged 10. It is a winter evening in the small Canadian village of Deptford, and Ramsey and Boy have quarreled. In a rage, Boy throws a snowball with a stone in it, misses his friend and hits the Baptist minister's pregnant wife by mistake. She becomes hysterical and later that night delivers her child prematurely, a baby with birth defects. Even worse, she loses her mind. The snowball, the stone, the deformed baby christened Paul Dempster--this is the secret guilt that will bind Ramsey and Staunton together through their long lives:
I was perfectly sure, you see, that the birth of Paul Dempster, so small, so feeble, and troublesome, was my fault. If I had not been so clever, so sly, so spiteful in hopping in front of the Dempsters just as Percy Boyd Staunton threw that snowball at me from behind, Mrs. Dempster would not have been struck. Did I never think that Percy was guilty? Indeed I did.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. The second novel, The Manticore, follows Staunton's son, David, through a course of Jungian therapy in Switzerland, while World of Wonders concentrates on Magnus Eisengrim, a renowned magician and hypnotist with ties to both Ramsey and Boy Staunton.
When it came to writing, three was Davies's favorite number. Before the Deptford books, he wrote The Salterton Trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties), and after it came The Cornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus). Excellent as these and Davies's other novels are, The Deptford Trilogy is arguably the masterpiece for which he'll best be remembered, as the combination of magic, archetype, and good, old-fashioned human frailty at work in these novels is a world of wonders unto itself, and guarantees these three books a permanent place among the great books of our time. --Alix Wilber
A series of three novels by Robertson Davies, consisting of Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975). Throughout the trilogy, Davies interweaves moral concerns and bits of arcane lore. The novels trace the lives of three men from the small town of Deptford, Ont., connected and transformed by a single childhood event: Percy "Boy" Staunton throws a snowball containing a stone at Dunstable (later Dunstan) Ramsay. Ramsay dodges the snowball and it hits Mary Dempster, who gives birth prematurely to a son, Paul, and slides into dementia. Fifth Business is an autobiographical letter written by Dunstan upon his retirement as headmaster of a boys' school; he has been tormented by guilt throughout his life. Boy Staunton lies at the bottom of Lake Ontario at the opening of The Manticore; the stone that hit Mrs. Dempster some 60 years earlier is found in his mouth. Much of the book describes the course of Jungian analysis undertaken by Boy's son David. World of Wonders tells the story of Paul Dempster. Kidnapped as a boy by a magician, he learns the trade and eventually becomes Magnus Eisengrim, one of the most successful acts on the European continent. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Totally loving them all! I'm now a Robertson Davies fan!
One thing that tends to happen in good stories is what I call the envelope effect. This is when something in the front of the novel informs the rest of the story by serving as its envelope. We have two such devices in this story. First there is the title, which refers to "Fifth Business" as an opera term. It relates to the role of the baritone in opera. The tenor is the leading character, the soprano his love interest, and so forth, all the way down to the baritone, who is fifth business, after all those other parts and voices. That's how Ramsay lived, by putting others ahead of himself. As he goes through life as "Fifth Business", the reader becomes more fascinated by and sympathetic to his character. Another envelope is the first sentence in the story: "My lifelong involvement with Mrs. Dempster began at 5:58 o'clock p.m. on 27 December 1908 at which time I was ten years and seven months old." The entire rest of the story fits into that envelope, it is fascinating how Davies pulls that off.
This is the first novel in a series of three novels called the Deptford Trilogy, and it is sneaky good. As I said earlier, I was disappointed early on, when it seemed to be just a memoir, but the story and its telling are sneaky good. By the end of the novel, you will be very glad you read it.
Most recent customer reviews
The fifth business metaphor is skillfully used repeatedly and thought provoking.