Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business is a 1970 novel by Canadian playwright, critic, journalist, and professor Robertson Davies. It is the first instalment of the Deptford Trilogy and is a story of the life of the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay. He spends much of the book struggling with his image of Mary Dempster as a fool-saint and dealing with issues of guilt that grew from a childhood accident. The entire story is told in the form of a letter written by Ramsay on his retirement from teaching at Colborne College, addressed to the school Headmaster.

It is Davies' best-known novel and has been called his finest. Davies is acknowledged as an outstanding essayist and brilliant novelist who was short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1986. Davies’ novels seem to flow effortlessly, partly due to the charming and fluid voice he attains in them, and partly, through his clever weaving of myth and symbol throughout what is, on the surface, a rather mundane plot.

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The venue, being a hotel bar/lounge area, requires that everyone buy at least one drink each if they are not hotel guests. It doesn't have to be alcoholic, so feel free to get coke/juice/etc. before we start. The group usually heads out for dinner after the meetup so feel free to join in.

We're usually by the "fireplace". If not, look for me.


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  • B M.

    Pride and prejudice is a romance novel more or less and meets group criterion.

    December 24, 2013

  • Scott D.

    Excellent novel. ...Have you ever heard of Harold Frederic's The Damnation of Theron Ware? A wonderful piece of fiction I think the group would love.

    1 · December 23, 2013

  • B M.

    Interesting, worthwhile novel I was not previously aware of.

    1 · December 20, 2013

  • Ann

    Dennis, now you've tweaked my curiosity. Shall see if I can think of a pure romance that fits with your usual choices. Some of the historical romances might. Hmmm

    November 18, 2013

    • Dennis T.

      Don't worry about fitting in with the other choices, it just has to have withstood the test of time.

      November 18, 2013

  • John

    Is there anything about Christmas in this book? Just wondering. Tradition.

    September 18, 2013

    • Ann

      I think we'd be relegated to romance novels -- definitely not the type of thing this group discusses.

      September 18, 2013

    • Dennis T.

      I don't think anybody would mind a romance novel if it's good from a literary standpoint.

      November 18, 2013

  • Ann

    I've never read Robertson Davies, but have always wanted to. Having a Christmas element doesn't matter at all to me, compared to the overall content.

    September 18, 2013

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