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Publisher's Summary

"Should I have taken the false teeth?" This is what Dr. Jonathan Hullah, a former police surgeon, thinks after he watches Father Hobbes die in front of the High Altar at Toronto's St. Aidan's on the morning of Good Friday. How did the good father die? We do not learn the answer until the very end of this "Case Book" of a man's rich and highly observant life.

But we learn much more about many things, and especially about Dr. Hullah, as the Cunning Man takes us through his own long and ardent life of theatre, art, and music; varied adventures in the Canadian Army during World War II; and the secrets of a doctor's consulting room, his preoccupation is not with sorrow but with the comedic canvas of life.

©1996 Robertson Davies (P)2012 Blackstone Audiobooks

What listeners say about The Cunning Man

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

What a shame!

This is a delicious novel by a superb author, and read by one of the all-time masters of narration. But the quality of the recording is so degraded it's virtually incomprehensible. The sound reminds me of recordings of radio broadcasts in the 1930's. Or like it's coming from deep under the water. Another reviewer mentioned this; I wish I'd sampled before I bought.

I really think Audible should lean on the books' publishers (Blackstone Audio in this instance) to come up with an earlier generation recording. It was published fairly recently (1999); there's no reason it has to be this bad.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

The Cunning Man

Unless the audio format can be improved this is not a very good listen which is too bad because it seems to be a good book

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good book, unprofessional recording

Would you try another book from Robertson Davies and/or Frederick Davidson?

I have listened to six other titles by Robertson Davies (and read another three in print), so I must be a fan of his work. They're good, though-provoking stories with an occasional touch of the fantastic and lots of tie-ins to topics relating to the arts.

What other book might you compare The Cunning Man to and why?

If you enjoy The Cunning Man, you would probably enjoy the books of Davies's Deptford Trilogy, and vice versa.

How could the performance have been better?

Other reviewers have pointed out the muffled and variable sound quality of the recording. What is really not acceptable in a commercial product are the bad splices: a passage is read once and then repeated in a different acoustic, apparently from a recording take. I've never come across this in any other Audible book, and this book deserves a better recording.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

sound quality adjusted in E format?

Like an earlier reviewer, I stopped listening to this early into my initial attempt after a Dec. 2010 download (Format 4)---however, after a recent hard drive death, I re-downloaded several novels to find this one, now available in Enhanced format, much improved. Though the sound still has that "dated" feel, it's passable - and even if Frederic Davidson sounds in spots like he's popped a valium, overall, he seems to be having fun narrating this novel, so it's enjoyable.

Robertson Davies' strong narrative, excellent writing, and dry wit -- even in second rate sound quality -- surpass 90% of other listening available (and it's a bonus if you either love or hate Toronto!) I hope Audible resurrects or records "Murther & Walking Spirits" to complement "Cunning Man."

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well read but editing glitches

Loved Mr Davidson's reading but there were editing problems. There were more than 15 repeats of whole passages. Would suggest closer attention to final edit.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book and reader, bad recording

Loved the story and the erudite style of Robertson Davies. It is his. Typical engaging, witty style that mocks all his characters while romping through the story. Lots of classic references to the arts, music and literature in a way as to open them to the unaware, such as myself.

Sadly the recording is flawed. Not so much one cannot enjoy the story, but it is rather annoying. Chapters get two minutes in and them begin again with no warning. This is a bit disconcerting, leaving the listener wondering if he missed something. Also, it appears to be a hashing together of various efforts as the narrators voice and tone seem to change from section to section. Still, the story is good and the narrator effective. But the production is poor.

Id love to give this 5 stars but cannot due to the production.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good story but poor narration

Would you listen to The Cunning Man again? Why?

The story is good but the narration is poor. On narration/editing, I counted 9 different occasions where the author re-read the same piece. Usually 1-2 sentences but sometimes up to 5 sentences. The narrator himself has a tone that makes the story seem tiresome rather that interesting of funny.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • airhugs
  • 01-14-15

Great book, well read, poor quality recording.

Any additional comments?

I am a big fan of Robertson Davies and though this is not his best, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and admire the narrators rendition but there is a persistent 'echo' in the backround of the recording which had me constantly thinking I had left the radio on in another room and it seems the editing is incomplete as many passages are repeated often with a different emphasis. Quite annoying.

Pity.