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Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies
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Tempest-Tost (1951)

by Robertson Davies

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3951927,097 (3.88)1 / 62
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The novels making up the Salterton Trilogy were written in the fifties, whilst Davies was still relatively young, and obviously draw heavily on his own experience as an actor and newspaperman in the UK and Canada. They are more straightforwardly satirical in feeling than his later novels and, especially in the first two, Davies is clearly having a hard time restraining his inner Trollope from inserting too many sardonic one-liners. There's a general theme dealing with the conflict between provincial philistinism and metropolitan culture (although he doesn't let the cultural big guns have it all their own way), and he's also obviously very interested in parents-vs.-children, and in how the roles people define for themselves end up constraining their personalities - an idea that also comes up in the later novels.

This first novel in the trilogy introduces the provincial university town of Salterton and most of the important characters in the trilogy in a relatively light-hearted romp in which the Salterton Am-Drams are putting on a garden production of Shakespeare's Tempest, a play that is clearly a bit too ambitious for them. Offset against all the splendidly (but perhaps predictably) comic business of the rivalries and love affairs between the members of the cast there is the semi-tragic story of the Stoner-like schoolmaster Hector Mackilwraith, which gives Davies the chance to dig a little bit deeper into both the magic of the stage and the intellectual poverty of the school system (his thumbnail sketch of teacher training in Canada is scarily plausible).
1 vote thorold | Sep 4, 2016 |
The first book in the Salterton trilogy. Very amusing satire about an amateur theater group. I found the character of Hector Mackilwraith particularly funny with his approach to teaching:

"It was in dealing with stupid pupils that his wit was shown. A dunce, who had done noting right, would not receive a mark of Zero from him, for Hector would geld the unhappy wretch of marks not only for arriving at a wrong solution, but for arriving at it by a wrong method. It was thus possible to announce to the class that the dunce had been awarded minus thirty-seven out of a possible hundred marks; such announcements could not be made more than two or three times a year, but they always brought a good laugh. And that laugh, it must be said, was not vaingloriously desired by Hector as a tribute to himself, but only in order that it might spur the dunce on to greater mathematical effort. That it never did so was one of the puzzles which life brought to Hector, for he was convinced of the effectiveness of ridicule in making stupid boys and girls intelligent."

Haven't we all suffered from a teacher like this? Therefore, it is satisfying to see the effects of ridicule upon Hector in his stupidity at romance at the end of the book! Just enough for a comeuppance, not too much... ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 13, 2016 |
Amusing but nothing compared to Davies' other books. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
This novel examines the lives of residents of a provincial Canadian town who are involved with an amateur theatrical production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Several young women are in the cast, including Griselda Webster, whose father has agreed to allow the theatre group to use his home's gardens for the performances of the play. Several of the men in the cast, both young and middle-aged, have romantic designs on the young women in the cast, especially Griselda. Some want only flirtation, one intends seduction, and middle-aged teacher Hector Mackilwraith believes himself in love with Griselda. Everything comes to a head on the play's opening night.

I had a hard time staying engaged with the audio version of the novel. I like humor, but not at others' expense. The humor in this novel seemed to have a cruel edge to it that made me uncomfortable. I doubt I'll continue with the other books in this trilogy. ( )
  cbl_tn | Sep 19, 2015 |
This book may be just a trifle, but it is seldom that a comic novel is funny on so many levels: delightful plot, funny situations, clever dialogue, amusing sentences. Granted, his chosen target, the pretensions of a provincial amateur theatrical troupe. is an easy one, but the sheer inventive energy buoys this book above the level of cliché. The basic approach is like that of the country house or campus comedy - a group of varied and idiosyncratic characters gathered together in a confined area, and the resulting intrigues, misunderstandings, inappropriate love affairs, and clashes of egos. The main plot centers on a hapless middle-aged mathematics instructor who falls in love with a beautiful and wealthy young women when they are both cast an amateur production of The Tempest. Even his attempted suicide ultimately doesn't spoil the fun. this is simpler than some of Davies's other novels, but a delight. ( )
  sjnorquist | Sep 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
"Robertson Davies manages to include in his first novel all the possible ingredients of a dull, amateur theatrical -- the jollying, the fussing, the chatter and a suicide, which is a miss.
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Nancy Lenkeith (Jul 13, 1952)
 
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Epigraph
I'll drain him dry as hay:
Sleep shall neither night nor day
Hang upon his pent-house lid;
He shall live a man forbid.
Weary se'nnights nine times nine
Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:
Though his bark cannot be lost
Yet it shall be tempest-tost.

Macbeth I.3
Dedication
First words
"It's going to be a great nuisance for both of us," said Freddy.
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With this plan in view she was at the residence of the late Dr. Adam Savage at five minutes to ten on the following morning, dismayed to find that an astounding total of two hundred and seventeen clergymen were there before her, waiting impatiently on the lawn. They ranged from canons of the cathedral, in shovel hats and the grey flannels which the more worldly Anglicans affect in summer, through Presbyterians and ministers of the United Church in black coats and Roman collars, to the popes and miracle workers of back-street sects, dressed in everything under the sun. There was a young priest, a little aloof from the others, who had been instructed by his bishop to bespeak a copy of The Catholic Encyclopaedia which was known to be in the house, for a school library. There were two rabbis, one with a beard and one without, chatting with the uneasy geniality of men who expect shortly to compete in a race for a shelf of books on the Pentateuch. There were High Anglicans with crosses on their watch chains, and low Anglicans with moustaches. There were sixteen Divinity students, not yet ordained, but trying to look sanctified in dark suits.
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Blurb from Penguin Classics edition: Tempest-Tost is the first novel in The Salterton Trilogy, which also includes Leaven of Malice and A Mixture of Frailties.
An amateur production of The Tempest provides a colourful backdrop for a hilarious look at unrequited love. Mathematics teacher Hector Mackilwraith, stirred and troubled by Shakespeare's play, falls in love with the beautiful Griselda Webster. When Griselda shows that she has plans of her own, Hector despairs and tries to commit suicide on the play's opening night.
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An amateur production of The Tempest provides a colorful backdrop for a hilarious look at unrequited love. Mathematics teacher Hector Mackilwraith, stirred and troubled by Shakespeare's play, falls in love with the beautiful Griselda Webster. When Griselda shows she has plans of her own, Hector despairs on the play's opening night.… (more)

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