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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Davies as master story-teller
As fresh today as it was when I first read it in high school some 34 years ago and, more importantly, it still speaks to those students to whom I teach it in the 21st Century classroom, not least because it is unashamedly Canadian in focus and it is a great introduction to Jungian psychology. It remains my favourite novel because, as with anyone's favourite piece of...
Published on Oct. 28 2011 by Bruggadung

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling finish.
The best way to approach Fifth business is to read it in small installments. This is definitely not a read until sunrise book. This is a true Saga, leaving out plenty of unnecessary detail. It covers the life of one man, almost desperately trying to prove that he has lived a full and interesting life. As the reader, you are to judge this by paying attention to his bizarre...
Published on Oct. 4 2000 by David Goodman


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Davies as master story-teller, Oct. 28 2011
By 
Bruggadung (Toronto, ON, CA) - See all my reviews
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As fresh today as it was when I first read it in high school some 34 years ago and, more importantly, it still speaks to those students to whom I teach it in the 21st Century classroom, not least because it is unashamedly Canadian in focus and it is a great introduction to Jungian psychology. It remains my favourite novel because, as with anyone's favourite piece of literature, it affects me most personally.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I had never heard of, July 18 2002
By 
Matthew Krichman (Durango, CO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Fifth Business, the first installment of the Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, is without doubt the best novel that I had never heard of. Davies prose and narrative voice rival Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited in elegance, humor, and style. And his characters and plot development, so rich, absorbing, and at once triumphant and tragic, put this fine novel in the same class as Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
The term 'Fifth Business', as Davies describes, refers to the role in an opera, usually played by a man, which has no opposite of the other sex. While only a supporting character, he is essential to the plot, for he often knows the secret of the hero's birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when all seems lost, or may even be the cause of someone's death. In this novel, Dunstan Ramsay plays this role, and he is in maginificent form. Though he narrates the novel, and is intimately entwined in the lives of all its characters, he somehow manages to remain slightly in the background as a passive observer of others. It is through his eyes that we witness the rise of Boy Staunton, his childhood friend from the small Canadian town of Deptford. While Dunny goes off to the war where he is seriously wounded, and later becomes a boarding school master and expert on the history of saints, Boy makes his fortune in the sugar business and eventually pursues a career in politics. Dunny, whose soft-spoken charm, honesty, and self-reflection become clear through his narration, serves as an admirable foil to Boy, whose drive and ambition are unrestrained by a sense of morality, duty, or altruism.
But the novel is far more complex than a simple study of two contrasting characters. Davies' cast is rich and diverse, and their lives intertwine fluidly, though often in surprising ways. There is Mrs. Dempster, who in the opening pages is struck by a snowball thrown by Boy and intended for Dunny, and is rendered "simple" after the subsequent premature birth of her son Paul. Paul runs away from home at a young age, but reappears later in the novel in a key role. And Liesl, the magician's manager, a strong-willed and sexually aggressive woman, hardened by life but wise in the ways of the world, proves to be an admirable rival for Dunny as astute observer of others.
Narrated in the form of a letter to Dunny's headmaster, the novel maintains a strong sense of plain honesty throughout. It is a remarkable novel, and a shock that Davies has remained relatively obscure in this country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All-time Canadian Classic!, Sept. 29 2011
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This review is from: Fifth Business (Paperback)
This is considered one of the greatest books in Canadian literature. I think it is the best. The striking thing about this book is it is both traditional and modern. The main character Dunstan Ramsay is a biographer of saints and a believer in miracles. Mythology, psychology, chance and the modern world interplay for this classic tale which seeks to unravel many of life's questions. I would recommend reading the entire Deptford Trilogy including The Manticore and World of Wonders as it will flush out many of the unanswered questions from Fifth Business.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling finish., Oct. 4 2000
The best way to approach Fifth business is to read it in small installments. This is definitely not a read until sunrise book. This is a true Saga, leaving out plenty of unnecessary detail. It covers the life of one man, almost desperately trying to prove that he has lived a full and interesting life. As the reader, you are to judge this by paying attention to his bizarre but captivating hobbies in life. Most people don't want to read about dubious sex scenes, nor sinners and saints. Davies draws on our own feeling, we all have our own unique interests in life and find that relating to Ramsay is easy. The ending is not so much of a shocker as a pleasant conclusion to a story which nearing the finish has been dragged out somewhat. None the less what makes this book a great read is how it sets the scene for the next installment of the Deptford trilogy (The manticore) which is twice as wonderful, though pointless without reading fifth business. None the less there are great lessons of life to be learned, and a vaguely true generalisation of Canadians. A fair read, though a great trilogy. Three stars.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Product not the same as description, March 12 2014
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This review is from: Fifth Business (Hardcover)
Was not hardcover like the description said. The reason why I bought this book was for the hardcover.
The book smells very bad.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a Great Journey, What a Great Read, April 12 2012
This review is from: Fifth Business (Paperback)
Fifth Business is a great installment in the genre of magic realism with a twist of comedy and paradox. It captures the image of small-town Canadian characters well and follows how their paths intertwine on a global scale. Fifth Business achieves a really detailed story with the addition of subtle underlying plots and questions that are what really make the book an enjoyable and active read. And to think, it all started with one snowball in 1908.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary magic, May 13 2002
By A Customer
There are a thousand reviews on Amazon saying "this is the best book I've ever read", so they're easy to pass off as hyperbole, but do yourself a favor and read this book. This is great literature, and although I am pleased to find a lot of reviews here saying that it is required reading in many literature classes, this is a book that inspires more than academic analysis - approach it with a sense of wonder and you will be amply rewarded.
I first read "Fifth Business" around 1970, and I've been telling people for over thirty years that I've never read anything to compare to it. At the time everyone was touting "The French Lieutenant's Woman" for it's "magical realism", but that was a cold read compared to "Fifth Business." This book transports you. You will find it hard to leave the world of Dunstan Ramsey when you finish this book.
The rest of the "Deptford Trilogy" is very good (though I found "World of Wonders" far superior to "The Manticore"), but if Davies had never written another word after "Fifth Business" his literary reputation would have been assured.
After spending all those years claiming that this book is the best novel of the second half of the 20th centiry, I felt an obligation to pick it up again as the year 2000 rolled around, since it had been several years since I last read it. I was not disappointed - despite being so familiar with the book, I was unable to put it down, and read far into the night before finishing.
Do yourself a favor and visit the world of Dunstan Ramsey - those who don't are the poorer for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, July 19 2014
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This review is from: Fifth Business (Paperback)
Amazing story! I've ordered the next 2 in the trilogy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Finest, Feb. 14 2004
By A Customer
I first read Fifth Business as a course requirement in college 25 years ago. To this day, that very same copy sits on my bookshelf, dog-eared and well worn. This is truely one of the finest books I have ever read and I recommend it most whole-heartedly. Robertson Davies was short-listed for the Nobel Prize in 1986 and when you read Fifth Business I'm sure you will understand why.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars undeservedly unknown, June 29 2003
By 
wellred (cullman, al United States) - See all my reviews
Merciful heavens, what a novel!! The implications of a thrown stone-loaded snowball is the basis of this book, and indeed an entire trilogy. From this simple premise comes one of the most profound and multi-layered stories that I have come across. Magically brilliant. Dunstan Ramsey is the narative voice of the book and is a nicely fleshed out character. Ramsey is moved by his unfounded guilt because of his part in the fateful snowball toss. His guilt and dedication is nicely played against the carelessness of Boy Stanton. A very thoughtful novel. Truly a great and important work.
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Fifth Business
Fifth Business by M.G. Vassanji (Paperback - June 24 2005)
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