Thursday, 26 September 2013

What's Bred in the Bone, by Robertson Davies

Why I chose it: 1986 Booker Prize Nominee

Podcasts: None

Brow: Middle brow if you're Canadian, because come on, you can't spend your whole life watching hockey and this is the other half of your cultural heritage; high brow if you are anything else.

Summary: The life and times of Francis Cornish, who died in the first book of the trilogy and left his considerable art collection for his friends to fight over. Francis was born in the early 20th century in a small town in Ontario and spends his childhood ignored by his parents and bullied by his classmates. As a teen, he moves to Toronto to go to school and eventually ends up in the UK, where he is drafted into the secret service. In the run up to WWII, he's sent to Germany in an elaborate art forgery/spy scheme. He continues his career in the secret service until his mentor dies and leaves him a considerable fortune, at which point he returns to Canada to become a patron of the arts.

What I liked about it: Davies appears to have learned between the first and the second parts of his trilogy that having multiple narrators is confusing and annoying, so he limits himself here to using it during his framing device, which is a conversation between the angel who is deciding the fate of Cornish's soul and the daimon that has been shaping him into a great man throughout his life. As a result, the story is pretty good.

What I didn't like about it: As usual with Robertson Davies, there is nothing to dislike about this book.

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