CanLit Challenge Book #8: What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies
Filed under: CanLit Challenge,Man Booker Prize — Ibis at 11:27 pm on Friday, January 20, 2006

Book 8, What’s Bred in the Bone (Book II of the Cornish Trilogy) (1985) – Robertson Davies
From the back cover:
“Francis Cornish was always good at keeping secrets. From the well-hidden family secret of his childhood to his mysterious encounters with a small-town embalmer, a master art restorer, a Bavarian countess, and various masters of espionage, the events in Francis’s life were not always what they seemed.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Robertson Davies
the Wikipedia article on What’s Bred in the Bone
The Monarch of the Glen by Edwin Landseer
Sir Galahad by G.F. Watts
Love Locked Out by Anna Lea Merritt
The Virgin of the Consolation by William Adolphe Bouguereau
The Doctor by Luke Fildes
Flaming June by Frederic, Lord Leighton
portraits done by Harry Furniss, caricaturist and author of How to Draw in Pen and Ink
An Allegory of Time by Angelo Bronzino

My Thoughts:
I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this. I’m just past the half way point (Francis is in his second year at Oxford). One thing I noticed reading it a second time is how the narrative shifts. In the first part, Francis himself has no voice, but then suddenly he’s an adult having conversations and writing letters.

Davies is such a great writer. I said that Blue Mountains of China was like trudging through a snow drift and that Island was skimming the surface of a calm deep sea. What’s Bred in the Bone is like having hot cocoa with your grandfather on a long winter’s night while he tells you how things used to be. It’s very straight forward with hints of humour and little philosophical digressions.

I spent several hours yesterday finishing this. I love Davies’ discussions about art, the artist, the Mothers, etc. etc. This is real erudition and insight instead of the pretence and misinformation one finds occasionally (no names need be mentioned I think).

I’m very much looking forward to the next one. I want to find out what happens to Cornish’s posthumous reputation.

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