Every so often, you may be lucky enough to read an author that makes you think, why have I not read this until now? One such writer who came to me through a friend’s recommendation some two years ago is Robertson Davies. Born 28 August 1913 in Thamesville Ontario, Davies was one of Canada’s premier novelists and literary figures until he sadly passed away in 1995. He was a man who wrote of art, love, theatre, music and literature with such genuine joy and witty skill that I couldn’t help but be bowled over.
Having inherited a love of books from his parents Davies also acquired a love of the theatre from a very early age. Studying at Upper Canada College, Queens University Ontario and Balliol College Oxford, in 1940 he worked at London’s Old Vic theatre playing small roles and working in a literary capacity for the director of the theatres repertory company. After writing amongst other things several successful plays, in 1951 he published the first novel in his Salterton Trilogy, Tempest-Tost.
His fantastic Cornish Trilogy, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone andThe Lyre of Orpheus deal with the central themes of literature, painting and opera consecutively. Absolutely steeped in wry humour and a deft exploration of the interrelationships of the various characters these novels are rare in the apparent ease of their execution. Without reservation I would highly recommend Davies books to anyone for whom reading is one of the central pleasures of their life, bearing in mind the words of the great man himself:
“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”