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The Cornish Trilogy (1981)

de Robertson Davies

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Sèrie: The Cornish Trilogy (Omnibus 1-3)

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The Cornish trilogy consists of three novels: the first is mainly about academics and how they are affected in the immediate aftermath of the very wealthy Francis Cornish; the second looks at Cornish's life, while the third looks at the completion and staging of an opera which was made possible by money left by Cornish and during which some of the secrets of Cornish's life come out.

There are some parts which have not aged well since the 1980s but Davies's prose still pulls the reader along in a story of characters coming to terms with different ways of thinking and feeling and the construction of their own personal legends based on the Tarot, alchemy and other symbolism. If that makes the books sound very heavy they are also very funny in places. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jul 8, 2021 |
I read this book while travelling through Europe for a month in 1993. Reading What’s Bred in the Bone while on the train from Italy to Austria to Germany was a magical experience I hope to repeat one day. A thoroughly enjoyable book. ( )
  Neil_Luvs_Books | Apr 6, 2021 |
It's been years since I've read anything by Robertson Davies, and the quality of his writing just drew me into a story I might otherwise not have cared much about. The Cornish Trilogy contains three novels about academics who study the arts -- philosophy, mythology etc. They are brought together when a colleague/friend, Francis Cornish, makes them co-executors of his will, under the general supervision of his banker nephew. What follows is an examination of loyalty, integrity, mysticism and the bonds of family and friendship. Excellent stuff. ( )
2 vota LynnB | Nov 23, 2019 |
The Cornish Trilogy follows the life and legacy of noted art connoisseur (and former artist) Francis Cornish. It touches on academia, art, war, music, the history of Canada, and the gap between what we think we know about people and what we actually know.

In the first volume, Francis is dead, and his executors are attempting to sort through his massive collection of paintings, sculpture and manuscripts. Two of his executors are also professors at a University of Toronto college, so the book follows their academic life as well, including brilliant Rabelaisian scholar Maria and dissolute monk Parlabane. In the second volume, we backtrack and follow Francis's life from start to finish, with guidance and commentary from a daimon and a guardian angel who have been watching Francis's life unfold (and shaping it, too, in the case of the daimon). We are also privy to many interesting aspects of Francis's life that will remain hidden a little longer from the characters we met in the first book. In the third volume, one of Francis's executors is writing a biography of Francis and inching closer to the truths we discovered in the second volume. The charitable foundation established with Francis's estate is also putting on an opera about King Arthur with some odd real-life parallels.

This was an excellent trilogy to spend a large chunk of time with. I liked the observations on university life in the first book, the paralleling of Francis's life with the history of Canada in the 20th century in the second book, and the behind-the-scenes view of the opera in the third book. Davies experiments with different styles and narrative figures over the course of the trilogy, allowing each installment to distinguish itself but still fit in to the larger narrative. The books are also studded with excellent turns of phrase, and the different topics covered in each book may have you running to do some more reading on them (e.g. the Monuments Men's work, based on the second book, or Arthurian legends, from the third book).

If I have any quibbles, one would be that at first I had difficulty with the voice of Maria in the first book, because Maria is a young woman and Davies is neither of those things, and the voice didn't sound quite right. I also found that the culminating incident in the first book was described in rather too much detail for my liking. "Sordid" would be a good word for it. Fortunately, the other two books don't contain such incidents.

This trilogy makes a good project for people who like Canadian literature and want to dust off an older author to read. It would also appeal to opera fans, perpetual students and art buffs. ( )
1 vota rabbitprincess | Sep 8, 2016 |
The Rebel Angels - There is a lot to love in this novel: the themes, symbolism, satire... Davies is clearly a smart writer; but the point of the whole story isn't really clear to me; and I haven't had that "Aha!" moment where it all clicks for me yet. I'm thinking its merit may lie within context of the whole trilogy, so I'll be heading into 'What's Bred into the Bone' in a couple of days.

What's Bred in the Bone - The conceit of the book is that one of the executors of Frank Cornish's estate is having trouble writing a biography of FC. The narrative then becomes an actual biography of the deceased man, told from the perspective of an archangel and a daimon. [I had a little trouble with the first book in the series, 'The Rebel Angels' - but in this one, I finally stopped trying to judge the author by the book(s) he wrote; and also stopped trying to read the books by 21st-century measures.] There is a lot to unpack in this novel, arguably the jewel in the crown of the trilogy.
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Aug 21, 2016 |
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Edicions: 0140144463, 0241952611

 

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