The Rebel Angels

The Rebel Angels

by Robertson Davies


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, defrocked monks, mad professors, and wealthy eccentrics-a remarkable cast peoples Robertson Davies' brilliant spectacle of theft, perjury, murder, scholarship, and love at a modern university. Only Mr. Davies, author of Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders, could have woven together their destinies with such wit, humour-and wisdom.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670590636
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/15/1982
Series: Cornish Trilogy Series , #1
Pages: 326
Product dimensions: 20.00(w) x 20.00(h) x 20.00(d)

About the Author

Robertson Davies (1913–1995) was born and raised in Ontario, and was educated at a variety of schools, including Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and as university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981 with the title of Master Emeritus.

He was one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with several volumes of plays and collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres to his credit. As a novelist, he gained worldwide fame for his three trilogies: The Salterton Trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy, and The Cornish Trilogy, and for later novels Murther & Walking Spirits and The Cunning Man.

His career was marked by many honours: He was the first Canadian to be made an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and he received honorary degrees from twenty-six American, Canadian, and British universities.

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The Rebel Angels (The Cornish Trilogy #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
VivienneR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1981, the year The Rebel Angels was written, Robertson Davies retired after eighteen years as Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto. He had also spent more than twenty years as editor and publisher of the Peterborough Examiner and was principal book reviewer for the weekly Saturday Night. He received many accolades including the Stephen Leacock Medal for humour, the Lorne Pierce Medal, The Governor-General¿s Award, and 23 honorary degrees. He was made a Companion to the Order of Canada and was the first Canadian to become an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. As a playwright and novelist he was one of Canada¿s most admired authors. He described himself as a recluse. Robertson Davies died in Orangeville, Ontario in 1995.Set in the exalted air of university life and written with the easy, down to earth style of a natural storyteller, the reader is transported into a world of colourful characters, theft, murder and love.The title is taken from the story of the angels Samahazai and Azazel who betrayed the secrets of heaven to King Solomon and were thrown out of paradise. Unlike Lucifer who wreaked vengeance, they came to earth and taught tongues, healing, laws and hygiene and often succeeded with the ¿daughters of men¿. Many parallels can be made with the learned men of St. John¿s College who are not always what they seem. The cast includes characters such as the scholarly Clement Hollier, who knows what he wants but not how to get it, Ozias Froats, whose unusual research is almost an obsession and very much misunderstood, and John Parlabane, rogue and defrocked monk who claims he ¿went over the wall¿ to escape the confines of a monastic life. Woven into all their lives is the influence of Maria Theotoky, a lavishly beautiful student who is of Gypsy origin.When wealthy art patron, Francis Cornish, dies and leaves his priceless collection in chaos it is up to his executors and university colleagues to sort the tempting hoard. One coveted item is missing but proving who has it is almost impossible. The eventual recovery reveals more than just theft.Davies departed from the traditional style of first person narrative by changing the narrator in some chapters. This can be a little confusing at first but it is an effective method when there are a number of important characters whose points of view must be shown. His subtle and often zany humour pervades a story that is rich in character and laden with surprises. This is a book that reinforces his reputation as a first class storyteller.
ChocolateMuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think my first reaction to this book was to marvel at how such erudition can be made so fun. This is not at all a heavy read, and yet it's a novel of such depth and breadth as rarely goes into a modern novel. The Rebel Angels is playful and intelligent, witty and wise, sincere and cerebral all at once. All that I've read of Robertson Davies so far has shown me someone I'd love to be like myself one day. He is widely read, sincere, kind, and clear-sighted. He doesn't subscribe to the all too common idea that the only real intelligence is critical, if not scathing. The ideas he explores through his characters are fresh and full of truth. So here's the set-up: a university, complete with scholars. Our two narrators are Maria, a student of the works of Rabelais, and Simon Darcourt, a professor and priest. The lives of both become involved with certain other characters, including two men who serve as the villains of the piece: Parlabane, an ex-monk, a repulsive and utterly original character; and Urquhart McVarish, slimy and full of intellectual spite. Another professor has died, leaving behind enormous quantities of art and manuscript all of varying degrees of value, uncatalogued and an enormous mess. Amongst all this is found an otherwise unknown and very precious manuscript by Rabelais himself. This is the catalyst that sets off the many events that follow, all complicated and not needing to be described here. This book is an uncommon thing in my experience - a scholarly page-turner. One must read on to see what happens next. One cares for the characters in an immediate, human kind of way. There are twists and surprises of the type which could be attributed to fluffy adventure stories. And yet every word and sentence is a fine work of both language and ideas. A work of art.Oh, and humour. I nearly forgot humour, it's so intrinsic to the book. This is not a satirical academic comedy, or a campus drama, or any of those neatly-ticked boxes that so many books slot neatly into. But it is set at a university, and it's funny, and it's dramatic. It's everything the perfect novel should be (in my humble opinion). Some unfashionable ideas are explored here so marvellously well that it was a real experience for me to read them. I was touched and fascinated by the depiction of a fat oldish man's overwhelming plunge into love for a beautiful young woman. Every word of it breathes truth. It's full of poetic sincerity and also the realistic self-awareness and conscious absurdity of an intelligent man in this situation. It's beautiful. And in another section, we read about a professor who is studying human faeces, and believe me, Davies makes it fascinating. In brief, I love this book. It's virtuosic, sensitive, gripping, and wonderfully clever.
BooksForDinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this, interesting characters and Davies usual overly-erudite craziness.
browner56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robertson Davies was a prolific author and a man of considerable professional breadth (novelist, newspaperman, academic, actor/playwright). Above all else, though, he was a remarkable story-teller. Few have been able to match his ability to combine the humor, erudition, and insights into human nature that mark all of his work. At their best, Davies¿ novels are both enlightening and highly entertaining; they are the kind of books that, as one critic put it, you cannot wait to tell your friends about.¿The Rebel Angels¿ is the first volume in the author¿s celebrated Cornish Trilogy and it is a wonderful example of the Campus Novel. Set in a fictional Canadian college¿apparently based on University of Toronto, where Davies spent many years on the faculty¿the plot revolves around the disposition of a considerable estate that has been bequeathed to the school by an eccentric patron of the arts. A highly coveted unpublished manuscript by Rabelais has gone missing, which leads to love, lust, considerable mayhem and, eventually, murder. Along the way, the reader is introduced to an unforgettable cast of characters, including a defrocked monk, academics of various merits, a priest, a graduate student and her gypsy relatives, a violin restorer, and a scatology expert.I really love this book. I have savored it on multiple occasions over the years and if there is such a thing as the written equivalent of comfort food, this would be it for me. I learn something new each time and the morale of the story¿¿Be not another if thou canst be thyself,¿ which comes courtesy of the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus¿never fails to resonate on a different level. In fact, when asked whether he ever read the same book a second time, Davies himself remarked: ¿Nobody ever reads the same book twice.¿ That is certainly true for me with this one.
lilyfathersjoy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had always meant to read Robertson Davies; my undergraduate English degree hadn't included Canadian literature. (And frankly, I tended to stick to Drama and Poetry for the lighter reading load...) One day I bit the bullet and this novel was the most readily available. I was enchanted by wit and quirkiness. When the man himself came to do a reading at the University of Victoria a couple of years later, I brought my ragged paperback copy along for him to sign. I don't think his agent was at all pleased; she wanted us to bring brand-new hardcovers of his latest publication. But this book started it for me, and I believe I've read everything he's written.