The third volume of the Cornish trilogy has less mystery and suspense than The Rebel Angels and What's Bred in the Bone , but there are still rewards for the reader. This is a deeper, more thoughtful and old-fashioned book, somewhat padded with leisurely asides, snippets of poetry and observations on the subject of artistic creativity. The plot revolves around a production of an unfinished opera by the 19th century composer E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose entreaty ``Let the lyre of Orpheus open the door of the underworld of feeling'' is borne out on many levels. The completion of Hoffmann's Arthur of Britain, or The Magnanimous Cuckold , is sponsored by the Cornish Foundation, presided over by the late benefactor's nephew, Arthur; the duplication of names is not accidental, for in the course of the narrative the modern-day Arthur is cuckolded by his wife, gypsy Maria Theotoky. Packed with interesting details of opera history and production, boasting some new, eccentric characters, and pulling together Robertson's various themes in a harmonic resolution, the novel should satisfy those who will settle for intelligent observations and playful allusions rather than dramatic momentum this time around. 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPBC alternates. Jan.
Old fans will be delighted, and new readers intrigued, as characters from Davies's The Rebel Angels ( LJ 1/1/82) and What's Bred in the Bone ( LJ 11/15/85) reappear in this demanding but worthwhile third volume of ``The Deptford Trilogy.'' With his wonderfully complex yet controlled plot, deft portrayal of eccentric characters, and great wit, Davies effectively satirizes the world of universities and foundations. Members of the Cornish Foundation are forced by Francis Cornish's nephew Arthur into funding the doctoral project of abrasive prodigy Hulda Schnackenburgthe completion and production of E.T.A. Hoffman's opera Arthur of Britain , or, The Magnificent Cuckold. Soon the characters' lives begin to resemble the opera's plot, and the spirit of Hoffman in Limbo, who observes ``Let the lyre of Orpheus open the door of the underworld of feeling,'' complicates the actionall to the reader's delight. Elizabeth Guiney Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll., Minneapolis
Robertson Davies (1913-1995) had three successive careers during the time he became an internationally acclaimed author: actor, publisher, and, finally, professor at the University of Toronto. The author of twelve novels and several volumes of essays and plays, he was the first Canadian to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.