Fifth Business by Robertson Davies is part of The Deptford Trilogy and is part of the first series that I am reading for this project. I contemplated waiting until I read all three books, but I do not trust that I will remember the first book as clearly as do now, after just finishing it.
The title of the book is something that only makes sense once one has read through the majority of the book and the idea of ‘fifth business’ is introduced. It is essentially described as the fifth person in an opera, who is not necessarily good or evil but helps drive the story line along. I found this an interesting way to describe such an essential character in the story, but I also find that it is a way that many narrators could be described in any story.
Without giving too much away- the story centers around several characters that come from a small town in Canada called Deptford (which may or may not be completely fictional). It shows their evolution through life and the people they become because of certain occurrences that happen when the narrator, Dunstan Ramsey, is a boy. Everything hinges around one snowball that was thrown, one mistake that a boy made while trying to be cruel to a ‘friend’ and a woman who took the hit mean for Dunstan. While there are moments of the story that are odd- it is entertaining.
As for the style of the story, I am not sure that I am a huge fan of how Robertson Davies writes. I can usually devour a book in a few days if I like the writing style or the plot. It took me the better part of three weeks to work my way through this book. I do wish to withhold my opinion on Davies’ writing style until after I have finished the series.
Overall Rating: 3 of 5. Not exactly a page turner, but not necessarily the worst book I have read either.