Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, 238 pages
Celebrate the Author; 1% Well-Read; 3rd Canadian Book Challenge
An epic-type story of the twentieth century. Three men from the same small town in Ontario grow up to various levels of fame, with intersecting lives. The narrator, Dunstan Ramsey, is a private school history teacher with an interest in saints, contrary to his Presbyterian upbringing. He maintains a close friendship with the boy-wonder, Boy Staunton, master of industry, but they share an event from their childhood that forever affected Dunstan. Paul Dempster ran away to join the circus, and then there is a mysterious death at the end when they all meet up again....
(I feel like I could write this summary and make it sound like a Sidney Sheldon novel, but the book only slightly felt that way. It has much larger literary asperations and feel, but I could completely go that way if I wanted.)
I was a little disappointed with the book, because I had very high hopes and instead it felt like those books I read in the 1980s, like Bloodlines or Lace. It never got as tawdry or elaborate, but it was headed in that direction. It just felt a little dated to me, and not just because of the cover of my edition. There was a John Irving feel, like Garp, in some ways. The connection between the characters, the power and money that was evident, the single event from childhood forever linking the characters. Since this was published in 1970, it may have been the originator of this type of story. It's like watching Casablanca for the first time and knowing all the lines anyway - you know you've read all this before, but it's not cliche because it started it all.
This is the first of the Deptford trilogy but I'm not running out to find them. Maybe in a few weeks or months the story will still be with me and I'll be wanting to find out what happened with Boy and Dunstan and that mysterious death at the end. If so, I'll look up the next book, but I think I'd rather reread an old Sidney Sheldon.
other reviews, from some real fans of Davies:
court at Once Upon a bookshelf;
bybee at Naked Without Books