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Fifth Business: The Deptford Trilogy, Book 1 | [Robertson Davies]

Fifth Business: The Deptford Trilogy, Book 1

This first novel in The Deptford Trilogy introduces Ramsay, a man who returns from World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross but who is destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As we hear Ramsey tell his story, we begin to realize that, from childhood, he has influenced those around him in a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious way.
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Publisher's Summary

Hailed by the Washington Post Book World as "a modern classic", Robertson Davies’ acclaimed Deptford Trilogy is a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven.

This first novel in the trilogy introduces Ramsay, a man who returns from World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross but who is destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As we hear Ramsey tell his story, we begin to realize that, from childhood, he has influenced those around him in a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious way. Even his seemingly innocent involvement in as innocuous an event as throwing a snowball proves to be neither innocent nor innocuous in the end.

Listen to the rest of The Deptford Trilogy.

©1970 Robertson Davies (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A marvelously enigmatic novel, elegantly written and driven by irresistible narrative forces." (The New York Times)

"Robertson Davies is one of the great modern novelists." (Malcolm Bradbury, The Sunday Times, London)

"One of the splendid literary enterprises of this decade." (Newsweek)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (180 )
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4.1 (160 )
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  •  
    Vinity NC 12-10-11
    Vinity NC 12-10-11 Member Since 2008

    Vinity

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Been waiting for this"

    This is a favorite series of mine from my college days so I was very happy to see it come up on audible. For years, when I was younger, I re-read it nearly every year. This is great storytelling but it's complex and multifaceted so beware if you are just looking for a fun light listen. It is a great tale infused with history, psychology, religion, theories on different styles of education, murder mystery, all wrapped up in a often humorous, sharp writing style. I think this is the most sedate of the 3 books but it's needed to glean insight into into the main characters. As Dunstan Ramsey says, he is Fifth Business and this book reflects it.

    The reader, Marc Vietor is adequate. He is the style of reader who mostly just reads. Not a great deal of characterizations of the voices. I would have wished for a more versatile reader. Not sure about his doing Canadian voices but Simon Vance would have been an interesting choice for reader.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-04-11
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-04-11 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world with my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thanks, Audible, but mildly disappointing"

    This is another novel I've always wanted to read but wouldn't have gotten to if not brought to audio. Since it finds itself on "best novels of all time" lists, my expectations were very high; however, I enjoyed books in Davies' Cornish and Salterton trilogies more. While Fifth Business is a very worthwhile listen, it's not THE great Canadian novel, but maybe it was the great Canadian novel of the Canadian psyche of its day (1970?).

    I love Davies' old fashioned, (and sometimes) poetry-infused prose. The narrator was good, but it takes someone like the late Frederick Davidson to get his tongue around those multiclaused sentences in a natural sounding way. (and to be really picky, the Brit Davidson did a better job of sounding old fashioned Canadian vowels than Vietor (who may not have even attempted that little added touch to the pre WWII Canadian English of the characters - I imagine that Davies would have delighted in that little touch-up to the vowels)

    I've no formal literary background, but Davies seems to me to be the great Jungian bridge between colonial and postcolonial CanLit and culture. And for 1970, this tale was probably innovative insight into the evolution Canadian nationhood. For non Canadians, Fifth Business might explain how we got from a nation of "hewers of wood and drawers of water" to "gee, eh!" (or G20) status. And it spins a darn good tale with some wonderful word play and images along the way. I'm looking forward to books 2 and 3. (The spirit of Davies is probably laughing about an American audio company making his novels accessible to Canadians who skipped through him on their university reading lists.)

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Xilon Gimhae, South Korea 06-20-12
    Jeff Xilon Gimhae, South Korea 06-20-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A Very Nice Audio Version of a Great Book."
    What did you love best about Fifth Business?

    This is a hard question for me to answer because Fifth Business may be my favorite book of all time. I have read it on numerous occasions and enjoying it as an Audiobook just added more to my ongoing and probably never ending experience with the book. It has many wonderfully developed, interesting characters chief among them being the narrator and protagonist Dunstan Ramsay. The story is king though and includes many fascinating subjects in its tapestry: stage magic, love, war, siants, pre-WWI small town Canadian life, Jungian psychology. Just great.


    Which character – as performed by Marc Vietor – was your favorite?

    Marc Vietor really does a good job with the general narration which means does a good job with our protagonist Dunstan Ramsay who is the teller of this story. I also really enjoyed his Padre Blazon.


    Any additional comments?

    It's a truly wonderful book. The only book I had to read in high school that I was thankful for. If you've never read it I can't recommend it enough. If you've read it and are wondering if it's worth listening to as an audiobook I'd say yes, yes it is.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, United States 05-19-13
    Dan SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, United States 05-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Enjoyable and complex"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Fifth Business to be better than the print version?

    Yes, just simply from the fact that I can listen to it while doing other things, so I am not as concerned about the time spent on a large book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Fifth Business?

    It felt very rich and deep, like I was eating second and third helpings of a delicious cake without a concern of gaining anything but mental weight.


    Have you listened to any of Marc Vietor’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I very much appreciated Marc Vietor's performance and there was another reviewer who indicated she would have preferred Frederick Davidson. I personally do not agree. I very much like Marc Vietor's cleanliness of style, crispness of voice, subtleness of accent. He provided an excellent author's voice that I could only imagine Robertson Davies as a dramatist would have been quite pleased. It is nice that the performer doesn't inject too much of his own interpretation and personality and doesn't over act. That, for me, get's in the way of my own interpretation, so yes Marc Vietor is probably singly responsible for me continuing on with Robertson Davies trilogies.


    If you could rename Fifth Business, what would you call it?

    A traveling show of curious characters leading to murder


    Any additional comments?

    Ah, this was a gift of the depth of the human intellect.
    Robertson Davies captures aspects of our culture and tantalizes us with the idea that we are all wealthy in some corners of our mind, certainly in imagination and understanding. We can live in books and that is often good enough. I thought everyone had at least 20 hidden talents and isn't it nice to leave the world of the easy reductions and simplistic generalizations. Robertson Davies is a man that has done Canada proud by elevating the whole of humanity.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty 01-26-12
    Betty 01-26-12

    Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics.

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    "THE DEPTFORD TRILOGY"

    In this trilogy, THE FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, WORLD OF WONDERS Davies traces the ripples in the lives of the three protagonists of one snow-wrapped stone thrown by one little boy at another little boy who dodged it. Can one ever foresee the impact of a careless act or word on the futures of oneself and others. A rock centered snow ball thrown by the fair haired son of the small town’s most prominent family thrown at and dodged by the son of a history professor. A rock-centered snow ball that is dodged by the intended target and hits the pregnant wife of a local minister who delivers a premature baby boy.

    Davies traces the lives of these three boys as they separate and intertwine over their lives. He is a master story teller and draws upon his wide knowledge of history, literature, music, and even magic. He is a joy to read (listen) and also learn more than you might expect.

    Why the trilogy? When I find an excellent writer, I enjoy immersion. I recommend all three books be enjoyed one after another; however, each book stands on its own.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 02-16-13
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 02-16-13 Member Since 2005

    I am a blessed man!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Trivial Pursuit."
    What disappointed you about Fifth Business?

    It was a long story full of characters with little charisma and with little mystery. I enjoyed it enough to listen till the end. Some of this intentional, its story is narrated by the main character, a bachelor academic writing to his successor about events that have already occurred.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    The Last Jiad.


    Which character – as performed by Marc Vietor – was your favorite?

    I loved the mysterious neighbor who was hit by a snowball. She is a fantastic character I would love to know.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Sadness.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonelle Camp Hill, PA, United States 06-18-12
    Jonelle Camp Hill, PA, United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2008

    A librarian who loves to read, whether in print or in the air

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    "Love John Irving? You'll love this!"
    Any additional comments?

    If you love John Irving's sagas, you'll enjoy Robertson Davies.

    This trilogy was recommended to me probably 30 years ago and many times since. But it was a friend's recent comment comparing the two authors that made me finally make time.

    I'm glad I did. It was well written, quirky and oddly compelling. I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Victoria, BC, Canada 02-10-13
    Amanda Victoria, BC, Canada 02-10-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not sure what all the fuss was about"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Was an ok story... it gets rave reviews on here but i found it just ok... am i missing something? lol


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon "Snow book" Los Angeles, CA 12-05-12
    Sharon "Snow book" Los Angeles, CA 12-05-12 Member Since 2012

    snow book

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointed"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I had heard so many good reviews from friends about this book and the whole series but I was really disappointed. The story drags and doesn't really seem to go anywhere. The narrator doesn't help to make this book more interesting either. I found it hard to keep paying attention to the story.


    What didn’t you like about Marc Vietor’s performance?

    His voice is dull and lacks emotion.


    Could you see Fifth Business being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    NO!!!


    Any additional comments?

    Don't bother.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results
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  • James
    Chester, United Kingdom
    7/11/14
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    "The first and best of this trilogy..."

    Each one loses narrative energy with each volume. The Cornish trilogy, and What's Bred in the Bone, are superior in wit, plot, invention and arcane lore, but none of Davidson's novels are given great readers to enliven them, and one or two on audible are almost sub-standard and painful. A waste.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-1 of 1 results

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