The Cunning Manby Robertson Davies
When Father Hobbes mysteriously dies at the high alter on Good Friday, Dr. Jonathan Hullah – whose holistic work has earned him the label “Cunning Man” (for the wizard of folk/i>
“A delight, a novel that travels 70 years of history on its own swift feet, a book of love and wisdom, loss and irony”—The Boston Sunday Globe
When Father Hobbes mysteriously dies at the high alter on Good Friday, Dr. Jonathan Hullah – whose holistic work has earned him the label “Cunning Man” (for the wizard of folk tradition) – wants to know why. The physician-cum-diagnostician’s search for answers compels him to look back over his own long life. He conjures vivid memories of the dazzling, intellectual high jinks and compassionate philosophies of himself and his circle, including flamboyant, mystical curate Charlie Iredale; cynical, quixotic professor Brocky Gilmartin; outrageous banker Darcy Dwyer; and jocular, muscular artist Pansy Todhunter. In compelling and hilarious scenes from the divine comedy of life, The Cunning Man reveals profound truth about being human.
The crowning achievement of “one of the most learned, amusing… accomplished novelists of our time and… of our century.” – The New York Times Book Review
- McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
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- 6.59(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.60(d)
Read an Excerpt
One of the joys of Robertson Davies' fiction is its easy commerce with the full sweep of western culture from the ancient Greeks to the present. Another is its vigorous, talky characters, whose challenges, exhilarations, defeats, and ultimate destination are bodied forth in telling details. And a third is an old-fashioned, attention-grabbing theatricality. The Cunning Man is as broadly learned as its predecessors, as replete with vividly realized characters, and as dramatic in its presentation.
Dr. Hullah, the story's chief narrator, takes the view that to understand a city's cultural past it is necessary to understand the people who created it. And so he tells the life stories of a number of the key figures, and provides capsule histories for many others. The life he explores most richly is his own. His account makes it entirely plausible that he should introduce many of the novel's learned references. He is comfortable with the thinking of Paracelsus, Thomas Browne, Robert Burton, and Sir William Osler, and refers easily to a wide range of novels and poetry. Without saying so directly, he makes it obvious that he himself has been a major contributor to The Toronto That Used To Be. So too was his old schoolfriend, Charlie Iredale, priest of St. Aidan's, passionate high Anglican and lover of its ritual and fine music. But Iredale's life had gone off the rails, and he was exiled to a minor parish, slid into alcoholism, and, after a brief period of reprieve, into death.
ABOUT ROBERTSON DAVIES
Robertson Davies (1913-1995) was born in the village of Thamesville, Ontario (the Deptford of three of his novels), where he lived for five years. His parents were remarkably like those of Brochwel Gilmartin in The Cunning Mangreat readers, talkers, and singers, but unhappy in their marriage and eager to win his allegiance.
"This is a wise, humane and consistently entertaining novel. Robertson Davies's skill and curiosity are as agile as ever, and his store of incidental knowledge is a constant pleasure. Long may he continue to divert us." The New York Times Book Review
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERTSON DAVIES
This conversation took place shortly before Mr. Davies' untimely death on December 2, 1995.
- The story of Dr. Hullah's life and times emerges in reaction to a series of interviews with the young journalist Esme Barron. What does she add to the story? What happens to shift Hullah from his initial mistrust of her to "love?"
Meet the Author
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.
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Once again the wonderful Canadian man of letters has combined engaging storytelling with sparkling wit and profound humanity. The late Robertson Davies was a thought-provoking observer of both the absurdities and the glories of mankind's search for knowledge through science and for understanding through religion. Rather than taking the easy way out by championing either one over the other he lets the characters in this charming novel show us the strengths and weaknesses of both. Yet this is not a didactic novel with ideas in place of people; it is full of all-too-human characters who constantly engage the reader's interest.
Insightful book, and well written. The characters come alive, and it moves at a leisurly pace, though it is a bit too long, I found myself working to keep an avid interest in the middle third.