Showing 31 - 32 of 32 annotations contributed by Sirridge, Marjorie
This is the third novel in Davies’s major work, The Deptford Trilogy. While it is not necessary to read the novels in this trilogy in sequence, doing so makes each story more complete and interesting, and clarifies the relationships between some of the characters. This particular novel tells the life story of the unfortunate boy introduced in The Fifth Business, who was spirited away from his Canadian home by one of the members of a traveling side show, the Wanless World of Wonders.
Magnus Eisengrim, now a master magician, describes his life as an innocent child who was introduced not only to rape, but to the sad world of the "freak" show, as he traveled throughout his formative years with these unfortunate people. The main good which came out of this was that he developed empathy for the members of the side show, and that he taught himself the skills of magic and became an accomplished magician. A turning point in his life occurred when he got away from this terrible environment and became an understudy for a famous English actor. In emulating this man, he moved on to become a marvelous illusionist.
The last part of the story is concerned with Magnus’s role in making a film about the life of Robert-Houdin; he finally tells his life story to the group of people with whom he is working. In this group there is a friend from his early life--a man who treated him badly when he was the actor’s understudy and who doesn’t now recognize him--and the director who is trying to help the group work together. Another important character is a woman with a physical disability which had so altered her appearance that it had warped her world view; Magnus helps her come to grips with her situation. The descriptions of the interactions among these unusual characters are Robertson Davies at his best.
This is a truly beautiful novel; its many stories remain with the reader for a long time. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the myriad of issues which are manifest as one family deals with the terminal illness of the mother from cancer.
A daughter, who has never considered herself close to her mother, is forced by her father to leave her job as a journalist in New York, to come home and become the primary caregiver. Over a period of several months the mother has chemotherapy and eventually gives up to the slow deterioration of the disease. During this time the mother and daughter rebuild a relationship and come to have mutual respect for each other. One poignant aspect of the relationship is their establishment of "The Gulden Girls Book and Cook Club" as they read old classics together and the mother teaches the daughter the cooking secrets which she has cherished.
The father, a college professor and former mentor of the daughter, absents himself from the home as much as possible, unable to deal with the issues. The female oncologist is very helpful and understanding with both the patient and the daughter. A wonderful hospice nurse gives welcome support. The question of assisted suicide becomes an issue after the mother's death; the daughter is arrested. There is a surprise ending which should not be revealed here, but offers a good forum for discussion.