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Fifth Business (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 6 Oct 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Paperback, 6 Oct 2005
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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: 13.1 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 436,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This has the most amazingly satisfying denouement of almost any book I've ever read, and that after a magical interweaving of the destinies of a few inhabitants of a small town in Canada over 50 years or more.
It's a classic meditation on religion and the world, the flesh and the devil, and great fun too.
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 novel says, and what is said within it about 'fifth business'.

The novel is cast as Dunstan Ramsay's memoirs, to be read by the Headteacher at the school at which he teaches and has taught for the past 40 years. He has not married, but has had relationships with women; and he has fought in the first world war. All that, and his memoirs of his early life in a small Canadian town I found held the interest well.

A less happy reading experience for me was the action around which he finds himself 'fifth business": not so much the career of his friend who makes it big in business and politics as his dealings with a woman he decides is a saint on the basis of three miracles, and his career as a 'hagiographer' writing lives of saints; and her son, a magician. And this material - the metaphorical, the religious, and (to judge from the Introduction) Jungian archetypes in everyday life is at the core of the 'thinking' material in the novel.

But the novel is tautly and cleverly plotted; episodes do not outstay their welcome; and the idea of an oblique 'take' on the lives of others is unusual and interesting.
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By A Customer on 25 Jun. 1999
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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Format: Paperback
I came across the when looking for books Canadian authors. This is very well written. It has some memorial lines, some great description and is fantastic in places but untimely I found it a bit boring and Davis has a habit of "waffling" at times. It's a bit inconsistent. I did have to force myself to pick it up and read it and I was never thinking about the story when I wasn't reading it , which for me a a sigh of a great book. I gave up at the half way stage, one of the reasons being I just couldn't care what happened to the characters. I wouldn't believe the hype for this one.
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By A Customer on 11 Feb. 1997
Format: Paperback
I found it one of his best books and feel ever one should
read it
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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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