The Rebel Angels

The Cornish Trilogy, Book 1
Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
Series: Cornish Trilogy, Book 1
Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3.5 out of 5 stars (195 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A goodhearted priest and scholar, a professor with a passion for the darker side of medieval psychology, a defrocked monk, and a rich young businessman who inherits some troublesome paintings are all helplessly beguiled by the same coed. Davies weaves together the destinies of this remarkable cast of characters, creating a wise and witty portrait of love, murder, and scholarship at a modern university.
©1981 Robertson Davies (P)1997 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[Davidson] accomplishes the task of preserving this restless story with a flowing narration. He modulates the voice of Maria, a graduate student, separating her from male companions with expressive accuracy. His slight English accent and dry, earthy elocution soundly stir this fiction to its concluding moment." ( AudioFile)
"A compelling performance." ( Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

must love academe circa mid 20th C

-- or at least love to laugh at it. A quirky love story told from two perspectives serves as a framework for a meditation on human nature. There are Classics specialists cavorting with Roma to trump academic rivals, with Jungian archetypes, alchemy, Tarot, and scientists studying feces thrown in, set in what appears to be U of Toronto before the university "modernized" (or post-modernized).

Though characters are immersed in Classics and Medieval studies, you don't need to be an academic to follow the fun. You can listen to the novel with with a Jungian ear, or you can listen to it as a bizarre tale, well woven, well written, well-narrated and often humorous (but not in the light hearted campus comedy tradition). Warning: There are with several scenes of lengthy debate among academics.

Volume two of the trilogy is on Audible ('What's Bred in the Bone') but not tagged as v. 2. V. 3 ("Lyre of Orpheus") is tagged as such.

If the arguing academics put you off the download, try v. 2., which is more a ride through the early 20th century with an eccentric, with even more Jung thrown in.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • TB
  • 06-09-19

Not like I remember

I originally read The Rebel Angels many years ago and was entranced by the web of intrigue surrounding the gypsies and academia so I thought I’d find the time flying by if I listened to the book. Wrong! I immediately was struck by how unpleasant I find the narrator’s voice when reading Maria’s voice. Then, as I listened to the men’s narration, I was struck by how Robertson Davies’s writing has not aged well. His characters are often highly chauvinistic and, in the listening, not sympathetic. I find Maria’s acceptance of the abuse by her mother infuriating, the description of the gypsy way of life unflattering, and the pettiness of the university unappealing. I don’t think I’m going to finish the book.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Not my favorite Davies novel

I've read all of Robertson Davies novels, and would say he's among my favorites. I usually enjoy listening to books I have read before--it brings out the best in a good book. This one, however, turned out to be an exception to that rule. Or maybe when I read it before I just wasn't as aware of how much the plot depends on creepy sexual predation attempting to disguise itself in mystical symbolism. There's some mildly entertaining academic satire here, but I could have skipped the rest. If you've never read Davies, start with Fifth Business.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Marvellous Tale, Howlingly Funny, Flawlessly Read

Robertson Davies is one of the great writers of our time, and if you fancy yourself an enlightened, educated individual, this will put you right. If you have anything to do with a "higher education," this ought to be required reading. Hah!