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Fifth Business (Deptford Trilogy) by…
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Fifth Business (Deptford Trilogy) (original 1970; edition 1977)

by Robertson Davies

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2,365632,661 (4.19)1 / 318
Member:robotjohnny
Title:Fifth Business (Deptford Trilogy)
Authors:Robertson Davies
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1977), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:canadian, fiction

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Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (1970)

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English (56)  Spanish (5)  Catalan (2)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Well written. Too bad that the blurb on the back of my paperback contained a major spoiler - that the snowball Boy Staunton throws in the beginning of the book contained a rock - as the impact of the book's ending was much lessened for me. ( )
  leslie.98 | Feb 16, 2016 |
Not much I can say that hasn't already been said by others. Davies has a wonderfully accessible writing style. He brings lofty topics like religion, sainthood, philosophy and morality to his story without going all "high-brow". He also has a way with words that I found engaging... I felt as though Ramsey was laying plain his life story directly to me, like a conversation between two people sitting around a kitchen table over a cup of coffee. Don't get me wrong, though... this is anything but a simple, straightforward story. Davies knows how to write in a way that kept me wanting to read more so it came as no surprise to me that I managed to read the entire book in the course of three evenings. I love the idea of the 'Fifth Business' - that one cannot make the plot work unless there is a odd member of the cast that has no rival/partner but carries the twist of the plot as he is the one who know a secret the others do not - and can understand why Davies chose this as the title for his story.

Robertson Davies is undoubtedly one of the pillars mentioned whenever a conversation of noteworthy Canadian authors comes up and it is that reputation of lofty acclaim that always held me back from attempting to read any of his books... I was afraid his books would be filled with topics that would go over my head, making me feel inadequate as a reader. I no longer have those thoughts/fears. I now happily and excitedly look forward to reading everything Davies has written. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Jan 31, 2016 |
The first novel in The Deptford Trilogy concerns three men, Dunstable Ramsay, Percy Boyd "Boy" Staunton, and Paul Dempster, who grew up in the fictional Canadian town of Deptford, which is based on Robertson Davies' home town of Thamesville, Ontario. Their lives are linked by the events on one fateful day in 1908, when young Percy throws a snowball in anger at Dunstable, and instead hits Paul's mother, who is pregnant with him, causing her to go into premature labor that evening. The novel is narrated by Dunstable, in the form of a letter about his life to the headmaster of the school that he has taught in for years and recently retired from. The lives and loves of Percy and Paul are integral to his own life, so we learn about them, and how the three influenced each other, for good as well as bad.

The three men lead fascinating lives, and each finds success in a different fashion, although none escape from personal tragedy. The novel is full of twists and unexpected turns, and it was very well written and a definite page turner. Instead of describing what happens to the three and possibly spoil the surprises I would suggest that you read the literary treat that is Fifth Business for yourself. I own The Deptford Trilogy, and I eagerly look forward to reading the remaining two novels, The Manticore and World of Wonders, later this year. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Jan 29, 2016 |
First installment of his Deptford Trilogy, this is Davis' best book. It contains a whole book full of wonderfully complex characters. While it is certainly not necessary to read the whole trilogy, if one does so one gains unique insight into Davies life. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
"This is the revenge of the unlived life, Ramsay. Suddenly it makes a fool of you."

"The prima donna and the tenor, the contralto and the basso, get all the best music and do all the spectacular things, but you cannot manage the plot without Fifth Business!"

Ten-year-old Dunstable Ramsay smartly dodges the snowball, thrown by Percy Boyd (later, Boy) Staunton. Said snowball hits the pregnant Mrs. Dempster, instead, leading perhaps to the premature birth of Paul. Told from Ramsay's point of view, Fifth Business is the story of his life and his various involvements with Boy Staunton and Paul Dempster. Staunton becomes a filthy rich industrialist and Paul runs off to join the circus while Ramsay plods along what must be considered a more mundane path: time in the trenches during WWI, education, and a career spent teaching boys in a fairly mediocre boarding school. To be both the Fifth Business and the protagonist is perhaps a bit of irony, or perhaps it is a profound statement on the universality of being the first-person narrator in our own (sometimes undramatic) dramas. In any case, this is a delightful novel with memorable characters. I will certainly be reading the second book in Robertson's Deptford Trilogy. ( )
  EBT1002 | Aug 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
"A marvelously enigmatic novel, then, elegantly written and driven by irresistible narrative force."
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robertson Daviesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Godwin, GailIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Fifth Business ... Definition
Those roles which, being neither those of
Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain,
but were none the less essential to
bring about the Recognition or the denouement
were called the Fifth Business in drama
and opera companies organized according
to the old style; the player who acted these
parts was often referred to as Fifth Business.
- Tho. Overskou, Den Danske Skueplads
Dedication
First words
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.
Quotations
" ... You despise almost everyone except Paul's mother. No wonder she seems like a saint to you; you have made her carry the affection you should have spread among fifty people. Do not look at me with that tragic face. You should thank me. At fifty years old you should be glad to know something of yourself. That horrid village and your hateful Scots family made you a moral monster. Well, it is not too late for you to enjoy a few years of almost normal humanity."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Wherein a small stone
acts as an antagonist
in a charming book

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141186151, Paperback)

The first novel in Davies's celebrated "Deptford Trilogy" introduces Ramsay, a man who returns from World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross who is destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:15 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross, and destined to be caught in a no-man's-land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious influence on those around him." -- Back cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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