September 15, 2011

The Rebel Angels - Robertson Davies

This is my first selection for the Canadian Book Challenge #5 hosted by John at The Book Mine Set. This year, I decided that rather than just reading 13 Canadian books between July 1 and June 30 (too easy - I usually finish the challenge half way through the year), I would re-read and review 13 Canadian books. Books that I have read and loved; books that I have read and disliked; books that I have read and forgotten.

Book: The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies

First Read: Maybe 1993 or 1994? I know that by the time that I went off to university in 1995 I had read everything that Robertson Davies had written, then was very sad when he died that year knowing that he would not be writing any more books for me to enjoy. This is a book that I have re-read many times since the first reading. I usually get a craving to read it in September since it is a book inextricably linked with the school year.

Original Impressions: This wasn't my favourite Davies book the first time I read it. It is the first in a trilogy, and I liked it better than the 2nd book (What's Bred in the Bone) but the 3rd book (The Lyre of Orpheus) was by far my favourite, probably because it dealt with music and musicians. The characters in The Rebel Angels are scholars and professors and academics set in place in a university loosely based in the University of Toronto. I did like the character of Maria who, at age 23, was closest in age to my 17-year-old self. She was everything that I wanted to be - intelligent, beautiful, interesting.

Current Impressions: This book grew on me over the years, probably as I went through the university system (though with a science degree, not the arts); and the humour became funnier. Robertson Davies is one of the few authors that remains laugh-out-loud funny to me, every time I re-read his books. Maria doesn't appeal to me as much now, 18 years later. Have I outgrown her? She seems so immature at times, and lacking in wisdom despite her intelligence. Or maybe it is knowing what happens to her through the next 2 books in the trilogy. She becomes boring (in my opinion). But the other characters have developed much more depth to me since my first reading. It is interesting to re-read a book that I loved at a different stage in life - there are some books that have remained favourites (e.g. Anne of Green Gables); others that have grown on me (e.g. The Diviners); and others that I no longer enjoy (e.g. several by Maeve Binchey).

On this re-reading, I was frustrated by Maria's stubbornness, intrigued by Parlabane's background, sympathetic with Darcourt's frustrations, and impatient with Hollier's single mindedness. Overall, it is a book that continues to hold my interest with each re-reading.

Next up for the challenge? I don't know - maybe a re-reading of The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, a book that I haven't re-read since my first reading.


Buried In Print said...

This first book in the series wasn't one of my favourites of his -- I loved the second one, actually -- but I would still be interested in re-reading it too; I'm sure I missed a lot the first time through. There are a lot of layers in his telling which makes it good fun for re-reading.

Kate said...

Buried in Print - I love re-reading Robertson Davies's books, as they are just as funny and interesting as they were the first time through - even more so in some cases. I go to them when I feel in need of a guaranteed good read!

superstar said...
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