Fifth Business  (Deptford Trilogy #1) By Robertson Davies

Fifth Business  (Deptford Trilogy #1) By Robertson Davies. This is the first book in the Deptford Trilogy by Canadian author Robertson Davies. Even though I hadn’t heard of him before, I was really impressed by his beautiful writing style.

Published in 1970, “Fifth Business” is set in a fictional town called Deptford, where the main character, Dunstan Ramsey, lives. What stood out to me was how well Davies portrayed the town, its people, and their stories. He added a touch of magic to make everything feel real yet enchanting. This mix of reality and magic makes the book captivating. His writing possesses an enchanting quality, creating an intriguing new dimension that keeps the reader’s imagination wandering in countless directions.

Although the novel is narrated  by Ramsey and most of the content is related to him, it appears to me that the main character of the novel is actually Mary Dempers, the strange wife of a protestant priest in the town. Mrs. Dempers is about ten years older than Ramsey but they always have had a close relationship. When Ramsey was young he used to babysit Mrs. Dempers’ son, Paul, and he came to have a special admiration for her. At some point Ramsey is convinced Mrs. Dempers is actually a saint and he believes he has witnessed her performing miracles on more than one occasion.

After Ramsey’s involvement in The Great War, he endured a harrowing battle that resulted in the loss of one of his legs. Following an extensive period of recuperation in the hospital, he returned to Canada. However, upon his arrival in his hometown, he was greeted by the devastating news that both of his parents had succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic. Adding to this tragic turn of events, Mrs. Dempers had also experienced profound loss: her husband had passed away, and her son had fled to an unknown location.

Overwhelmed by compassion, Ramsey willingly took on the responsibility of caring for Mrs. Dempers. Little did he anticipate the immense financial burden this endeavor would place on him. Unfortunately, Mrs. Dempers had become entirely unresponsive, likely due to the deep anguish and desolation she endured after losing her only child.

In the novel, there is another significant character named Boy who plays a crucial role in Ramsey’s life. Boy is a complex figure who simultaneously serves as Ramsey’s friend and foe. Following numerous clashes with Boy, Ramsey leaves Canada once again and embarks on a journey to Mexico.

In Mexico, Ramsey unexpectedly encounters Paul, who is now in his forties and working as an illusionist in a French circus. Paul has flourished in his new profession, displaying remarkable skills in his role. Persuaded by another friend,  Paul extends an invitation to Ramsey to join his circus company as a biographer.

Embracing this unexpected twist of fate, Ramsey accepts Paul’s offer and eagerly becomes a part of the circus. It’s a remarkable shift for Ramsey, a history professor by trade, to find himself working amidst the vibrant world of the circus.

A noteworthy aspect of this novel is Davies’ ability to spotlight characters from a modest Canadian town while simultaneously evoking a sense of universality in the narratives. Amidst the exploration of Deptford’s residents, a profound theme emerges: the interconnectedness of human lives. The portrayal of a tightly-knit community and the intricate web of relationships among its inhabitants delve into the fundamental enigmas of humanity, revealing that, in essence, we are all bound together in various ways.

error: Content is protected !!
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap