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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 7 June 1999
I first read the three books that make up the 'Deptford Trilogy' nearly twenty years ago. Re-reading them recently, I was staggered by how much had stuck in my mind. Not just stuck, but had been working away in the intervening two decades subtly shaping my thoughts. Robertson Davies' characters are beguiling creations - on the one hand they seem strangely familiar, on the other they are larger-than-life archetypes. And that latter point is perhaps no accident: Davies was one of few authors who really understood what Jung was talking about (the middle book of this trilogy sets out a model Jungian analysis that must be the envy of many a therapist). The 'Deptford Trilogy' is exquisitely crafted - intricately plotted, beautifully written. It is a gem of contemporary literature, and a great pleasure to read.
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on 1 October 2000
This trilogy is the perfect antidote to anyone who feels that the 20th (never mind the 21st) century lost its sense of the spiritual and of enduring values. Beautifully-written, the books chart the interweaving lives of a group of people who start out in a small Canadian town, and those with whom their lives become entangled. We meet a good man who is genuinely appealing and attractive - an almost impossible achievement in a world where the devil usually has the best tunes. And we can relish the slow workings-out of destiny as the ramifications of deeds spread out over the years and the continents. It is surely no accident that is a Jungian analyst with a sensitivity to the mystery of life (and not a reductionist Freudian, Adlerian or the like) who works with the protagonist in the second of these three deeply rewarding works. These books are rich and warm, combining an earthy realism with a profound sense of the spiritual.
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on 10 September 2009
As I grow older I find myself getting more resistant to being drawn into fictitious worlds - so much has been done before and there seems to be so little time left for one's own life. But although Robertson Davies's novels are long, I make an exception for them. I would recommend The Deptford Trilogy to begin with. It is endlessly humane, humourous, well-balanced and absorbing. A saga that begins with deceptively gritty realism in a small town in Canada before the First World War ends up ramifying throughout the twentieth century and through much of Europe and America, and taking off into all sorts of social arguments and mystical implications, before looping back to tie up the original theme with a weight of accumulated wisdom.
It's one of those books you can open almost anywhere and be drawn into any one of many character arcs and plots. The characters can seem larger than life, but one comes to feel that maybe all human life would be as enthralling as this, if we could hear everybody's hidden stories, and see them through the proper, vivid colours of myth.
Other reviewers are right to say that the story tails off just a little in the final volume - but even tailed-off Robertson Davies is more interesting than most writers working at full stretch.
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on 3 September 2002
The three interconnecting life stories span some seventy years from the early twentieth century; yet the book has considerable lightness of touch compared to most historical sagas. It is immensely rich in its characters and descriptions, which cover the First World War, life on the road with a travelling freakshow and a spell of Jungian analysis and a wealth of human experience from childhood to old age. Disappointingly, the narrative does tail off slightly in the latter chapters of the "World of Wonders", the third of the trilogy, namely because the characters involved seem like historical relics, making it frustratingly difficult to identify with their experiences, which is never the case during the first two books. The combination of history, mythology and differing viewpoints makes these books appealing on a variety of levels from rattling good read to thoroughly intellectually stimulating.
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on 21 July 2010
This is beautifully weighted storytelling. A good tale well told, with complex, living characters, which advocates its main points forcefully but not intrusively.

Ostensibly a murder mystery told from three points of view the Deptford stories use those confessionals to illuminate many complex characters. The story unfolds at an unforced pace. Indeed, one of the beautiful things about the books is that the characters telling the story are interested in telling you their own story in their own way at their own pace and for their own reasons. In the first book, Ramsey diverts himself and the reader from the life and death of Boy Staunton to discuss his own work on obscure saints, glossing over his own wartime record. In the last Magnus drip feeds his own story in such away as to wring the maximum effect from it's telling from some of the other characters. The characters live because they tell their own stories for their own reasons. To enjoy this book you'll just have to let them get on with it.

The book is an encouragement to being your own person in your own way and to the strength and happiness that can be gained from knowing yourself. The Jungian approach to archetypes was fascinating and exposure to it has improved my own storytelling.
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on 1 December 2015
Three books in one is always good but these were magnificent. I was not sure what to expect having bought the trilogy on the recommendation of an Independent (newspaper) crossword setter (Phi) who has clued several Robertson Davies references in his puzzles. I was enraptured and awed by the author's eloquence and story-telling ability. These were not at all the sort of books which I would normally read so I am truly grateful to Phi for pointing me in their direction.

Previous reviewers have given details about the contents of the stories so I will only say that I was engrossed in the characters and their linked histories. I look forward to reading his other trilogies.
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on 26 January 2014
The Deptford Trilogy is another book that was recommended by a friend, who could not put it down. I am only half way through this book, but so far have found it well written with fascinating characters
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 September 2011
This trilogy allows the reader to enter a fascinating world of personal pathologies, individual growth, and faith. While each character is limited in their own way, they come together late in life and make surprizing discoveries about themselves and about love. It is a peculiar mix of cynicism and a sincere tract in favor of psyhotherapy, with one of the best descriptions of a Jungian analysis available in fiction. But you also see the world of staged magic, grammar schools, and provincial Canada.

Highly recommended, if a somewhat quirky world with unusual characters. And beautifully written.
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I was recommended to read this book about 10 years ago and I finally got to read the trilogy about 5 years later. I think it is a fantastic series that deserves to be far better known. Everyone I know who has read any Robertson Davies is as enthusiastic about it. I find myself quoting bits of the books in conversation simply because they seem to have such universal relevance.

I have not read the Salterton Trilogy (yet - it's on my to do list) but of all of the ones I have read, the Deptford Trilogy stands out. I love the idea that one simple action (the throwing of a snowball) can create such ripples that extend into the lives of 3 individuals. Robertson Davies is such an engaging writer that I just enjoy following through all the lives described.

I love the philosophical musings in the book and its magical/mystical quality.

What more can I say - read it.
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on 21 January 2014
I'd read one Robertson Davies novel and wanted to try more. Couldn't get this from the library and it was a good price secondhand on Amazon. Davies' books are labrynthine, like 19th century novels. Lots of interlocking themes. I find them both entertaining and thought provoking.
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