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Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business (1970)

by Robertson Davies

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Deptford Trilogy (Book 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,518662,405 (4.18)1 / 362

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Engaging book so far at a third of the way through. How did I manage to read nothing of Robert Davies after going through grade 13, four years of university, and having read thousands of books? He is so much better than Atwood. ( )
1 vote ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Although the writing was excellent, this book failed to wow me. From reading other reviews, it seems that people either love it or hate it. I fall somewhere in between. I can appreciate the themes of Jungian archetypes, creation of a personal mythology, the exploration of morality and sainthood… but it just didn’t make a very good story. In my humble opinion, there were bits that were downright silly. (In this respect, it reminded me a bit of “A Trip to the Stars” by Nicholas Christopher, another book which has a main character who takes a baffling detour to a career in stage magic)

I just couldn’t take Dunstan Ramsay at face value, I found him to be a very unreliable (and annoying) narrator. The book is less than 300 pages, but it felt longer than “War and Peace”, it especially drags in the last half and I honestly forced myself to finish. I feel a bit sorry for my niece and her classmates who have to read this for school – if I had read this 25 years ago I would have been firmly in the “hate it” camp.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
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. ( )
3 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. ( )
2 vote kidzdoc | Jan 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (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 editionscalculated
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome 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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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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Average: (4.18)
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