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As the first book in Davies' first trilogy, Tempest-Tost sets the stage for what is to come in Salterton, then elsewhere in his world.
I have read all of his novels "in paper", and he is one of my favorite authors. By now I have experienced several in audio. His books were meant to be read aloud, as you would expect of a former actor.
In all of the novels Davies depicts multiple human beings as lively, sympathetic creatures who are trying to get on with life --- though to our delight, they do not generally know what that means. The drawing is less skilled here than in his later works, though he tells an amusing story.
Anyone who has been around amateur theatricals will enjoy the background. Tempest-Tost also introduces us to characters who will come to fuller life in the other parts of the trilogy.
Anyone who wants to spend an entire novel "inside" one person should know upfront that Davies may not be their man. To some extent in this work, and much more in later ones, he gives life and depth to multiple characters --- with a wonderful combination of humor, tragedy, and sympathy. The humanist peeks through here, as does the humorist. But they have yet to become one. The main object of both the humor and the sympathy here, a sad pedant, is too one-dimensional.
To me the book lacks the depth, grace and balance of the later ones. It is a worthy effort. If heard in sequence, you can see how rapidly Davies moved from talented beginner to far more.
If you are trying to pick a book that will help you decide whether or not to read more of Davies, this would not be the best first choice. But if you want a complete picture of his Salterton community it will be well worth your time.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
The other reviews here mainly address the book - I'll address the reading. I LOVE this book, as I love most of Robertson Davies' work. As another reviewer mentioned, Davies' work seems made to be read aloud, so I was really looking forward to this - but am constantly distracted by the failings of the reader. He's fine on narration, but really falls apart on characterization - especially for the female characters. Anyone who's read much Davies knows that he sets great store by how things sound; his books contain more than one description of the loveliness of a low, musical woman's voice. But these women are all made to sound like idiots or shrews. The young ones are breathless and giddy; the older ones are, if intelligent, harsh and nasal, and if not, shrill and whiny. The men don't do much better, except those, such as Professor Vambrace, who are already caricatures.
It makes me appreciate all the more the talents of a reader who takes the trouble to understand and embody the characters. This one should stick to essays or history - something without any people.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful