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Robertson Davies
ISBN # : 9780140084467
Publisher: Penguin Press HC
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Like many a good Canadian, I have read Davies' acclaimed "Deptford Trilogy", and comparing it to The Salterton Trilogy, the latter disappoints. I wanted to assume that The Salterton Trilogy was written first, in the way that you can excuse earlier works on account of the author's inexperience of life. This trilogy is just not very DEEP, unlike The Deptford Trilogy, which somehow manages to construct a fascinating mythology that is firmly rooted in the understated chilly existence of English-speaking Canada, a difficult thing indeed. Much of The Salterton Trilogy pokes fun at that Canadian social frost, but in a satiric manner, not at all magical.
But hey, the Salterton novels do improve in order of their appearance: Tempest Tost is a light comedy of manners about the amateur production of Shakespearean theatre in the university town of Salterton. Leaven of Malice takes a more affectionate look at some of the town's inhabitants, allowing for more characterization and less caricature. My fave was the last novel, A Mixture of Frailties, a rags-to artistic-riches story of a young woman of Salterton. Monica Gall, daughter to fundamentalist christians, receives a fairy-godmother-style scholarship to develop her singing talent in London. Her growth and awakening as an adult and artist are chronicled, with lots of good stuff about bohemian London lifestyles. This is excellent vicarious living for all girls with artistic aspirations. I loved reading it as much as I loved The Little Princess by France Hodgson Burnett 25 years ago. Also, at the end of this novel I was finally able to recognize the Davies I had known and liked so much before: the author who had placed a round white stone in the mouth of a suicide's corpse. A Mixture of Frailities has a very satisfying, un-saccharine ending. Monica's actions in the end put her in league with the best citizens of The Deptford Trilogy.


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