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Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business (original 1970; edition 1970)

by Robertson Davies

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,152533,034 (4.2)1 / 191
Title:Fifth Business
Authors:Robertson Davies
Info:Viking Adult (1970), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 309 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Favorites, Rec collection
Tags:fiction, Toronto, WWI

Work details

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (1970)

1001 (10) 1001 books (13) 20th century (39) Canada (111) Canadian (123) Canadian author (23) Canadian fiction (34) Canadian literature (95) classic (14) contemporary fiction (12) Davies (12) Deptford (11) Deptford Trilogy (45) favorite (10) fiction (424) literature (48) magic (14) mystery (9) novel (81) Ontario (20) own (14) read (39) Robertson Davies (18) Saints (12) series (13) to-read (44) Toronto (12) trilogy (14) unread (12) WWI (18)

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English (46)  Spanish (5)  Catalan (2)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)

Although I understood the story, I felt like there were many layers to it that I was just missing. What I did like was how real the people and places were.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
A book that is tightly written and plotted. A book that has all the essentials of a great read. I can see why it's considered a Canadian classic. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 29, 2014 |
so, so great! this is, i think, a master class in fiction writing, and a really fantastic story. classic for a reason!

though i consider davies one of my favourite writers, i have not read this novel for a long, long time. a long time. so i was nervous - worried i wouldn't love it as much as i think i do. but it was amazing and i love it still with even stronger appreciation now. i can't imagine this book being taught successfully to most high school students - and my teacher did do a great job. there is just so much going on in this book that, with time allotted on a curriculum, would - i think - barely cover the basics. ( )
  DawsonOakes | May 19, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book, I read somewhere that is was the idea for John Irving's book "A Prayer for Owen Meany", but really apart from the freak accident at the start of the book it was nothing like it at all! Still very absorbing though. Dunny Ramsey and Boy Staunton had a sort of Love/hate relationship from childhood, when coming back from sledding one day after an argument Boy threw a snowball at Dunny containing a stone, Dunny ducked and it hit Mrs Dempster inducing early labour and leaving her with mental problems. Here is where the story really starts. The guilt of one, the selfish thoughtlessness of the other and the results of the hideous consequences of the last.
Dunny becomes a teacher and somewhat of an expert on saints writing books about them. Boy becomes a well heeled business man and later a powerful political mogul. The baby born prematurely Paul becomes a master of prestidigitation and goes on to have a fairly important part in the story . With a very unexpected ending.
Quite in depth and full of very profound observations about the differences of spiritualism and down right materialism. I really liked it. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Apr 1, 2014 |
Terrific story of Dunny Ramsay, long time school master and his friend/rival Boy Staunton, who becomes a very powerful man in Canada... A snowball misses its intended target, and hits Mary Demster, sending her into premature labor... she becomes, for Dunny a fool-saint... Dunny becomes an academic, expert in saints... Paul, the son born to Mary, plays a prominent role towards the end. Wonderful storytelling, wonderful characterizations... audio version well read.... ( )
  DavidO1103 | Feb 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (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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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
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.
" ... 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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:38 -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)

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