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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2001
Woven together by a common location and some of the main characters, this is a saga of the highs and lows of the human condition, which will demand your attention even when you manage to put it down to go and do something less interesting. The characters are alive, Davies' descriptive powers make them dance in front of your eyes, especially Humphrey Cobbler, and the awesome grotesque burden that is Louisa Hansen Bridgetower, (I always imagined her as a Jabba the Hutt type figure when I was reading this!) who is the source of so much misery to her descendants but also the source of great enlightenment to her benefactor. Stunning!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Robertson Davies is known for his deep, detailed look at communities and strange happenings. "The Salterton Trilogy" is no exception: a well-written, often funny and sometimes poignant look at the odd occupants of Salterton, the deceptively quaint Canadian city with two cathedrals and one university.

"Tempest-Tost" opens with the organization of an amateur production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." A motley crew of actors join it, including an exuberent professor, his quiet daughter, a quiet mama's boy, a beautiful rich girl, a womanizing soldier, and an infatuated schoolteacher. Love, ambition, jealousy and infatuation rapidly tangle together, climaxing in an unusually dramatic opening night.

In contrast, "Leaven of Malice" is half satire and half mystery. The Salterton Bellman announces that Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace are engaged -- the only problem is that it isn't true. Professor Vambrace sees it as a personal affront, and sues the paper. Pearl and Solly are haunted by false rumors, reports, and claims about who faked the announcement. All they can do is try to find out themselves.

"Mixture of Frailties" opens with the death of Solly's domineering mother. Her will leaves money to Solly's family only if he produces a male heir with his wife Veronica (previously known as Pearl); until then, her money is to be used in a trust for a young female artistic hopeful, who will go to Europe for a few years to study whatever she is good at. And finding the right girl is only the start of Solly's problems.

The tone of the Salterton Trilogy is lighter and less introspective than Davies' other books. Sometimes it's outright hilarious (there's a girl called The Torso, for crying out loud!). The first book is perhaps the funniest and most real-seeming, but it's also rather unfocused because there is no real plot. The second and third books are tighter, but a little more rarified in humor and a little more surreal in tone.

Solly Bridgetower is the unacknowledged center of the trilogy. He barely registers in "Tempest-Tost," but becomes the central figure of the second and third books. He's not a strong person, but he is a likable one. Pearl is only a little more prominent at first, but it's great to see her break out of her shell and become her own person. And without a doubt, Humphrey Cobbler is Davies' best character -- a vivid, devil-may-care artistic genius who winks and nudges in every book.

The Salterton Trilogy is often eclipsed by Davies' better-known Deptford Trilogy, but that doesn't mean it's bad. By no means. It's a pleasant and warmly amusing trio of interconnected stories, and ones you won't forget in a hurry. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2011
I was introduced only recently to Robertson Davies and have now read all 3 trilogies virtually back to back (The Cornish and the Deptford are the others) - so that is an indication of how impressed I have been. Each part stands alone but it is certainly a richer experience to read the whole trilogy. This one took us from a small and perhaps self important town in Canada to London and briefly to Venice. While addressing issues of music - new and old, drama and religious and academic institutions, but is always about human relationships and how wonderful but also how cruel and sometimes petty they can be. It is such a wide ranging book that there is bound to be something of interest to you.

In each of the books, Davies displays a phenomenal range of knowledge which is occasionally a little overwhelming, but for me he has been a great discovery and I only regret coming to him so late. Try this or any of the trilogies and you are likely to be searching for the other two!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2010
The Salterton Trilogy is the first of three completed by Davies before his death (the other two being The Deptford and Cornish Trilogies). It draws heavily on Davies' experiences in 1940s London working as a bit-part actor at the Old Vic, and as a student in Oxford in 1938. His empathy with the world of the actor and musician, and his warm understanding of the human condition, mean that all the characters are evoked with humour, insight and compassion - even the hard to love ones such as Norm and Duchy, Bevill Higgin and Ma Gall. The trilogy also explores the dynamics of the parent-child relationship, and the unhappiness and personal sacrifice that parents can deliberately or unwittingly impose on the children they purport to love.
The first volume of the trilogy, Tempest Tost, narrates the events connected to an amateur production of The Tempest. It introduces main characters Solly Bridgetower, Pearl/Veronica Vambrace and organist Humphrey Cobbler, whose presence unites the three novels.
The second volume, Leaven of Malice, explores the effects of a malicious practical joke - the placing of a fictitious engagement announcement in the local paper. The repercussions of this moment of spite are felt by several characters from the first novel.
The final volume, A Mixture of Frailties, is a stunning evocation of a Britain shaking off the post-war gloom and shortages, seen through the eyes of Bridgetower Scholar Monica Gall, sent from Salterton to train as a singer under the terms of Solly Bridgetower's mother's will. Monica becomes involved with Giles Revelstoke, whose life and career as a critic and composer are clearly based on Peter Warlock.
Davies explored some of the themes of the Salterton Trilogy again in the Cornish Trilogy, but there is a freshness and charm to his first three novels that make them quite special in his distinguished and hugely enjoyable output. His blend of Jungian philosophy, hilarious set-pieces (Monica's leaving party with The Thirteeners; Norm and Duchy's monstrous soiree), scholarship lightly worn and sheer love of humanity make his novels truly enchanting. He is one of my favourite authors and his three trilogies repay reading again and again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A deeply wise book in a fountain of wisdom.It would be impossible to read just one and not feel that a part of a great feast was missing.
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on 20 December 2012
The Deptford trilogy is one of my favoutite books and reviewers have said that the Salterton is even better. Sadly I found it very dated, characters unsympathetic and the action a matter of indifference to me. It failed to engage me at all. I shall try to finish it when I have nothing else to read just because it is there,- rather like a sauce bottle!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2001
Great characters (Professer Vambrace, Humphrey Cobbler etc), and believable storylines. I've read this twice now, and it was even better second time around.
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on 11 May 2015
Davies is a masterful writer, whose depth of knowledge about art, mythology, history and everything in between, know no bounds.
I love all of his writings, he is the master of novel writing.
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on 3 April 2015
I'm still reading it but have read it before, and I enjoy his books very much, particularly the Trilogies. I think Robertson Davies is probably my favourite author.
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