Book 17, Fifth Business (1970) – Robertson Davies
From the back cover:
“Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave of Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross, and destined to be caught in a no-man’s-land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious influence on those around him. His apparent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy proves, in the end, neither innocent nor innocuous.
The first novel in the celebrated Deptford Trilogy, Fifth Business stands alone as the remarkable story of a rational man, who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real.”
Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Fifth Business
the Wikipedia article on the Deptford Trilogy
the Wikipedia article on Robertson Davies
the Wikipedia article on Thamesville, Ontario (model for Deptford)
the Wikipedia article on Upper Canada College (model for Colborne College)
the Wikipedia article on the battle of Passchendaele
This was a *really* good book. The story of four lives beginning with the boyhood of the narrator in a small Ontario village in 1908 and a fateful throw of a snowball, through the battle of Passchendaele with all the mud and horror seen with all the myopia of a single soldier, manhood with all its politics and passions. A mythic story too, complete with a Wise Old Man, a Holy Saint, a Magus at the height of his power, an Androgynous Catalyst, a King (or at least a wannabe one), and of course, our narrator, the Fifth Business. Great. Great. Great.
I can’t wait to read the other two.
For Davies fans, this book is a bit like What’s Bred in the Bone.