6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2009
The narrator of the novel is murdered on the first page and is bound in some way to his murderer. Together they attend a film festival, where the murderer (a film critic) watches classic films along with the rest of the audience. The narrator, however, is trapped and forced to watch a different set of films. Gradually it becomes clear that these are films showing his history and that of his family - the story of his great great grandmother escaping New York after the War of Independence for example.
Nothing is hidden - the narrator can overhear their thoughts, see the unfolding actions in context. It is beautifully written, with strong characters and a really strong sense of place (the description of the poverty stricken village in Wales is particularly striking).
It is also an uncomfortable read in the sense that gradually you as the reader begin to wonder what you would have to watch if you were in this position.
I would recommend the novel - it is quirky, amusing and very well written; although it appears to be episodic everything is connected. The different characters are clearly defined, with some that are almost unforgettable and the sense of place is flawless.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2013
This is the only Robertson Davies book I have not enjoyed reading. He was a master stury-teller and I wouldn't have believed he could write a dull word until I read this, which is ironic because story-telling is one of the major themes. This was his last book, however, and it continues the (brilliant) Cunning Man.
on 28 April 2014
This is outside R. D.'s usual haunts (a pun is intended). It is a sequence of biographies of the ancestors of of a man who is murdered literally in the first sentence of the book. One learns that Canada has more than her fair share of sectarianism, and has been severely strait-laced even by the standards of former times. Some episodes are set in Wales, & the first of these reads more like legend than reality. Other episodes are more realistic, but all more or less grim; don't go looking for torrid love scenes. Any humour is of the gallows persuasion. Still, highly readable, but one of R.D.'s more lightweight offerings (as well as one of his last).