The Rebel Angels – Robertson Davies

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The Rebel Angels tells the story of four academics in a Canadian University, and how their lives are changed by the death of an eccentric art collector. It does not feel like a book in its own right, as it ends fairly abruptly, without covering many of the issues raised initially. It seems to be more like an introduction to the rest of The Cornish Trilogy. The pace of the book is fairly slow, but the writing is so rich that it doesn’t really matter. The characters are introduced gradually, but are all interesting people.

The plot is fairly minimal, but life inside the Canadian University is described well. It may not be strictly realistic, but it was probably more interesting than the real thing.

There were quite a few academic references, and some of them went over my head, as I’m not an expert in art/literature, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyability of the book, and I’m now looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.


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6 Comments

  1. Teddy says:

    I’ve meaning to give Robertson Davies a try for a long time. I have lived in Canasda over 16 years now and have read a lot of wonderful Canadian authors. I’m not sure which of his books to start with.

  2. Jackie says:

    This is the first one I’ve read, so don’t know if it’s the best place to start or not. Different people seem to suggest starting with different ones. Add a link to your review here, if you do decide to start with this one, as I’d be interested to know what you think of it.

  3. Lazygal says:

    Anything I can do to spread the word of Davies, I will!

    Jackie, you’re right, the book does set up the other two books in the Cornish trilogy, but I’ve always found that Davies’ books can be read on their own, in any order. Some books don’t tie things up neatly, and this is one of them.

    Read the rest of the trilogy before deciding what you think of Davies. Generally, when I recommend him, I start with another trilogy (the Deptford one, which starts with “Fifth Business”). But honestly, if you like slower novels, he’s absolutely wonderful.

  4. Beth F says:

    Thanks for linking this to Semicolon, or I would have missed it. I’m a huge Robertson Davis fan. I love his writing!

  5. Memory says:

    The next two books in the trilogy are much better; in fact, I’d consider WHAT’S BRED IN THE BONE one of my very favourite books. His DEPTFORD TRILOGY is also wonderful.

  6. Julia Royce says:

    Robertson Davies is one of my favourite authors. The Deptford Trilogy was the first I came across inthe early 80s, and is always the one I suggest others start with. I’m still looking for an author to replace him.

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