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thereviewman

The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
Fifth Business - Robertson Davies I very rarely rate a novel five stars. It's also harder to write a glowing review than a scathing one. So what in the world am I doing giving this book five stars?

I certainly wouldn't if I didn't think Fifth Business was worthy of such accolades. And yet at first glance the novel looks like it's all over the map: an old man, obsessed with hagiology, tells the story of his life, which involves canonizing his friend's literally insane mother, travelling the world with a prosthetic leg, and hanging out with polyglot magicians. There's also a murder mystery, but it only happens in the last 35 pages.

By all accounts, this story sounds like a dud. But thanks to Robertson Davies' masterful writing, Fifth Business succeeds on all counts. It's at once a definitive statement of small-town Canadian rustication—Robertson Davies is one of the Canadian greats—and a hilarious tale of academia and human relationships. The novel is the first of the so-called Deptford Trilogy, a series based on characters from the small, boring town of Deptford. Each novel in the trilogy stands alone as a superior work of fiction; together, the series is arguably as complete and encompassing as anything by your favourite master of fiction.

Distilled with a wry humour (at one point a mortician dresses a corpse with Chanel No. 5), the story is also darkly psychological in nature—Davies has the reader on the analyst's couch and is having us tell our own story in a way. (In fact, the second novel in the trilogy, The Manticore, sees a major character's son spend much of the book in an actual psychologist's office.) The book's ending, a murder that serves as the trilogy's foundation stone, reveals the significance of the title Fifth Business but also allows the reader to consider his own prejudices, his bitterness, his self-loathing. This is the rare comedy with real soul, a fun read that doesn't leave you bloated with empty calories afterward.

I can't say enough good about Fifth Business, but I'm sort of hopped up on three cups of coffee right now so this will have to do. Aaaaaaaaaaaahl be back though. (That doesn't happen in Fifth Business; I don't know why I included it in the review. Sorry guys.)