Quaint? I think not,
This review is from: The Salterton Trilogy: Tempest-Tost Leaven of Malice a Mixture of Frailties (Paperback)Robertson Davies' "Salterton Trilogy" is a well-written, often funny and sometimes poignant look at the realistically odd occupants of Salterton, the deceptively quaint Canadian city with two cathedrals and one university.
"Tempest-Tost" opens with the organization of an amateur production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." A motley crew of actors join it, including an exuberent professor, his quiet daughter, a quiet mama's boy, a beautiful rich girl, a womanizing soldier, and an infatuated schoolteacher. Love, ambition, jealousy and infatuation rapidly tangle together, climaxing in an unusually dramatic opening night.
"Leaven of Malice" is half satire and half mystery. The Salterton Bellman announces that Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace are engaged -- the only problem is that it isn't true. Professor Vambrace sees it as a personal affront, and sues the paper. Pearl and Solly are haunted by false rumors, reports, and claims about who faked the announcement. All they can do is try to find out themselves.
"Mixture of Frailties" opens with the death of Solly's domineering mother. Her will leaves money to Solly's family only if he produces a male heir with his wife Veronica (previously known as Pearl); until then, her money is to be used in a trust for a young female artistic hopeful, who will go to Europe for a few years to study whatever she is good at. And finding the right girl is only the start of Solly's problems.
The tone of the Salterton Trilogy is lighter and less introspective than Davies' other books. Sometimes it's outright hilarious (there's a girl called The Torso, for crying out loud!). The first book is perhaps the funniest and most real-seeming, but it's also rather unfocused because there is no plot. The second and third books are tighter, but a little more rarified in humor and a little more surreal in tone.
Solly Bridgetower is the unacknowledged center of the trilogy. He barely registers in "Tempest-Tost," but becomes the central figure of the second and third books. He's not a strong person, but he is a likable one. Pearl is only a little more prominent at first, but it's great to see her break out of her shell and become her own person. And without a doubt, Humphrey Cobbler is Davies' best character -- a vivid, devil-may-care artistic genius who winks and nudges in every book.
The Salterton Trilogy is often eclipsed by Davies' better-known Deptford Trilogy, but that doesn't mean it's bad. By no means. It's a pleasant and warmly amusing trio of interconnected stories, and ones you won't forget in a hurry. Highly recommended.