on 26 December 1998
This is the best novel of the century's best English language novelist. The plot is sure-fire (kid runs away with the carnival), the characters memorable (sideshow freaks, revealed to be--human beings! theater people, great and small, revealed to be--human beings!), the sins enormous (pederasty, pride, perhaps even murder), the virtues marvelous (love, devotion to love). The theme of this book, as with the other books in the trilogy, is search for self--the main character of this book lives four different lives during his life. This book works on every level; it reads well as a story, gives you something to think about, and stands up to any number of readings you'd care to give it. (I've given it at least five.)
on 4 June 1997
Davies uses the 'accidental' revelation of a great magician's life--by the magician himself--to complete the Deptford Trilogy and answer the mystery: "Who killed...?"
Davies is at his storytelling best here, spinning out a strange, fascinating life story that begins when a young boy is captivated by a carnival magic show.
By far the best book of the trilogy, this novel stands brilliantly on its own and is head and shoulders above the two recent novels that use almost the same plot: Mr. Vertigo, by Paul Auster,
and Millroy the Magician, by Paul Theroux.
on 14 July 1999
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."
on 5 December 2006
This is the only readable book by Great Canadian Writer Robertson Davies, possibly because the first (and best) section is lifted from Memoirs of a Sword Swallower (read it). A small boy is kidnapped by a travelling carnival in the American poverty and hick belt. He tells how far from glamorous this life is and shows us the grime beneath the sequins: the jolly Fat Lady is really sad and grey-haired; the snakes in the snake-charming act are constantly replaced as they die from too much man-handling. When the central character grows up, he joins a straight theatrical troupe and then becomes a career magician, but the book becomes infested with a lot of Jungian codswallop. If you like this, read the Memoirs of a Sword Swallower and J B Priestly's Lost Empires.