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“Be sure you choose what you believe and know why you believe it, because if you don't choose your beliefs, you may be certain that some belief, and probably not a very credible one, will choose you.”
― Robertson Davies, The Manticore
The second novel in Davies' Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore focuses largely on the life of Boy Staunton's son David. Like Fifth Business before, this novel contains amazing prose and a caste of characters that are not quite loveable, but amazingly human at the same time. The structure of the novel is largely a diary David Staunton keeps while undergoing Jungian analysis after the suicide of his billionaire father. This flashback analysis allows Davies to deal with an unreliable narrator by having the Jungian therapist (Johanna Von Haller) jump in occasionally to explain, uproot, twist, and interject architypes into the unrolling life of David Staunton, his relationship with his father, nurse, mother, sister, and early love. It also allows Davies to explore issues around the subconcious, Jungian architypes, myth, history, etc.
The third and final chapter of the novel exits the diary and brings in some of the characters from the series (Dunstan Ramsey, Liesl, and Magnus Eisengrim). I didn't quite like it as much as Fifth Business, but still adored it. I understand (I think) where Davies was going with the final act, but I'm not quite sure he squared the knot. Perhaps, it left a lot unsaid because, obviously, there is one more book. So, for now I'll tenatively leave it as 4-stars, but perhaps that will increase as I finish the trilogy.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful
It's a Rashomon-like, alternate view of the major plot points of Fifth Business, as told by "Boy" Staunton's son in the form of his year-long analysis at the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich. At times it can feel like a Jungian-based critique of the first novel in the trilogy — pedantic — even as it rounds out and fills in many of that book's minor characters. The abrupt shift in the last few chapters feels a bit forced, and is obviously a set-up for the third novel, World of Wonders. Which I'm going to start immediately, because it definitely piques the interest!
This is the second part of the Deptford trilogy and as with the other books by Robertson Davies this is well written and entertaining at a range of levels. The narration though is strange not only because of the weird mid-Atlantic accent but the way that in this reading, it is even more variable than the other two books. Dr Von Halle varies from "zee clorious cherman psychoserapist" to mid Atlantic with a bit of French sounding here and there. Ben Cruickshank, Loella' father, swoops from Scotland across to Belfast in a single sentence. In some parts of the book, the narration includes whether it is Dunstable or Von Halle speaking because they are indistinguishable.
It's hard to ignore all this but if you can the story swings it with Davies' quality writing.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful