A Mixture of Frailties is so much more than the story of Monica Gall's life in London and her education as a singer. It is an account of her education as a human being, and the result is an absorbing novel, comic in the true sense, vivid and frequently moving.
©1958 Robertson Davies; (P)1996 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Third in a trilogy, yet independently satisfying, this presentation encourages listeners to seek more of Davies's beguiling prose." (AudioFile)
"It is impudent, amused and amusing, and sterling entertainment." (New York Times)
"Davies is equally familiar with the world of the Canadian provinces and with that of musical London, and portrays both with rich humor and sympathetic understanding." (Chicago Tribune)
I love Robertson Davies' books and have read them all. This is the second audiobook I've gotten. The first was Leaven of Malice. Because it is so comic and comparatively simpler, I had expected that to be more suitable for an audio version, and it was excellent. But this is even better.
As with all Davies, many of the characters are extremes, but all are vibrantly human, even the nastiest. The deep humanity of the author who was an actor, editor, professor, dean AND writer shines through.
The plot starts with a nasty joke of a will that leaves the son and daughter-in-law of a formidable and brilliantly vindictive woman with a hundred dollars, a huge house to maintain, and nothing else. However, they will inherit everything when, and only when, they produce a male heir. Meanwhile, the income from her (for the time) huge estate is to help a Canadian woman study "the arts" abroad.
We are shown both the hardships imposed on the young couple left in Salterton and the unexpected good fortune of the young woman chosen to benefit from the legacy. The characters include an "old puss", a churchman, the young couple, the young female singer being trained, a famous conductor, a gifted composer, and numerous others.
The main emphasis is on watching the development of the young singer. We also watch the son develop some backbone and a sense of humor. The incidents combine warm sympathy for the characters, a great sense of the absurd, and a mixture of joy and loss. Since this is not a tragedy, it ends well for the main characters.
The reader is excellent. The writing is excellent. The characters and incidents are enjoyable. Who could ask for anything more?
Say something about yourself!
I enjoyed this book and recommend it. It is the 3rd book in a trilogy but you do not have to read the 2 that came before to enjoy this one. Love the narrator. Sad to hear he had died. Great voice. In some ways, (Canadians might be offended) this work is English-like. Perhaps that is the narrator. But I mean it as praise, nothing less. It is essentially a book of manners, so if you do not like that sort of thing you will need to pass. However, the story of Monica, the main character, is always interesting. The write-up says something to the effect that Davies is "comic". Do not be misled. No belly laughs here. Comic in the sense of high motives and sometimes flawed achievement. Good writer, a good way to use a credit.
Davies wrote several trilogies and the Salterton Trilogy shows the real strength of his writing. If you want to delve into Davies psychological fiction, this is an excellent starting point.
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