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Fifth Business (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Robertson Davies
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.38 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Oct 2005 Penguin Classics

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. His apparently innocent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous.

Fifth Business stands alone as a remarkable story told by a rational man who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (6 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143051385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143051381
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 13 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) was an actor, a University Professor and a writer. He is the author of The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy and The Cornish Trilogy.

M.G. Vassanji was born in Kenia and raised in Tanzania. His first novel, The Gunny Sack, won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1990. His other books include Uhuru Street, No New Land, Amriika, and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. He lives in Toronto.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly Good! 3 Sep 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Simply one of the best-written and entertaining books that I've ever read. A feeling of loss overcame me when I had finished the book and realized that I'd never read it again for the first time. Thank goodness that it's the first in a trilogy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I ever read! 11 Feb 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found it one of his best books and feel ever one should
read it
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Davies' Deptford Trilogy - A MUST-read 14 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The only bad thing about Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy (FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, WORLD OF WONDERS) is that it had to end! Sparklingly clever, bawdy, poignant, erudite, and laugh-out-loud funny, Davies entertains in a wonderfully rich, old-world style.
A friend of mine (who recommended the books, and to whom I will be forever grateful) put it this way: "Reading Robertson Davies is like sitting in a plush, wood-paneled library--in a large leather chair with a glass of excellent brandy and a crackling fire--and being captivated with a fabulous tale spun by a wonderful raconteur."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!! 25 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is definitely one of the best I've ever read. The plot is stunning, mature, unique, and sophisticated. I couldn't put the book down!! The characters were wonderfully contrived, and the way Davies wove them into one plot was beautifully done. It was amusing at times too, and interesting to see how Dunstan Ramsay and his friends matured.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank saints there are 2 more in the series 23 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In this mature and subtle book, Davies sets out to expore the crisis that takes grip when one must justify a life lived. But like the plot itself, the reader is left with perhaps more questions than anwers. Why do we value acheivement more than deapth of spirit? Is the life of one dragged by events any less valuable that that of the successful showman, businessman or politician? Isn't success just an illusion that covers the emptiness of spirit that is its inevitable companion?
Along the way, the reader meets colorful characters - priests and sinners - the enliven the story.
A book that is therapy bound by leather.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"Fifth Business" is a distinctly Canadian book that tells the intriguing tale of Dunstan Ramsay, an eccentric intellectual who shoves aside social normalacy to pursue his own interests. Teens will enjoy it for its bizarre, black scenes (e.g. when Ramsay fights off an ape-like woman with his peg leg), and absolutely fascinating characters. Due to my ignorance of religion, I found the seemingly endless speeches about saints rather draining. Aside from that, this is an utterly unique and entertaining novel.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant 29 Aug 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Robertson Davies has written a book which captured my mind and kept me interested from beginning to end! His story of a boy whose life changes with the innocent throw of a snowball, is a story which no one should miss out on. Excellent book for teenagers as well! A definite 10 out of 10!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A boy throws a snowball, and the world changes. 8 July 1996
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"...and you must have 'Fifth Business,' because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero's birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody's death if that is part of the plot. The hero, the heroine, the hermitess and the villian do all the spectacular things but you cannot manage the plot without 'Fifth Business.' Are you 'Fifth Business?' You had better find out."

Unlike today's "fiction lite," "Fifth Business" is the kind of book you wish you could read for the first time all over again. Fiction aficionados rightly regard it as Davies' masterpiece. One day a boy throws a snowball, and the world changes. This is "Fifth Business." Haven't read it yet? I envy you!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
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... Read more
Published 3 months ago by P. A. Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifth Business
Loved this! It is a real treasure and I couldn't believe I had never heard of Robertson Davies before. Read more
Published 15 months ago by s l capaldi
3.0 out of 5 stars oblique take on lives of drama; and on the mythological basis of...
Fifth business is a role which is neither hero nor villain, but which is a necessary feature of a dramatic or operatic plot - at least that's what the quotation at the front of the... Read more
Published on 12 Nov 2011 by William Jordan
4.0 out of 5 stars The tale of Dunstan
Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy is a strange, slightly magical trio of fictional biographies, all of which originate in the small Canadian town of Deptford. Read more
Published on 1 May 2011 by E. A Solinas
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and beautifully-written
Dunstan Ramsey has spent 45 years as a school-master at a famous Canadian school and has taken umbrage at the flippant tone of the piece in the school magazine writing up his... Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2010 by Nigel Seel
5.0 out of 5 stars Sneaks up on you - a great book
Davies' great skill lies in his ability to write beautiful prose in an effortless way. He doesn't show off with flamboyant metaphors and flowery writing - his style is very... Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2009 by Sanderae
4.0 out of 5 stars An inward-leading story appreciated only at the end.
It is at this point in time that I wish to revoke my former statement about this novel by Robertson Davies. Read more
Published on 21 July 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the first English-class books that I enjoyed.
...all right, it may have something to do with my fabulous teacher Ms. Biggs, but whatever. A fantastic example of literary theory, in the interweaving of themes and the complex... Read more
Published on 21 July 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Damn good reading
I usually hate school books, but this one was worth the read. It is unlike anything I have ever read, in its content, theme, structure, and style; rarely do I read something this... Read more
Published on 3 April 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Fifth Business, while not literature's best, is a good book
The complaints do have some force - this book is slow in development, and the plot lacks excitement or even high suspense. Read more
Published on 25 Jan 1999
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