Author Rating: A+

Deptford Trilogy:

Of Davies’ three trilogies, this is my favorite — “a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven.” Individual reviews of the books can be found at the links.

Salterton Trilogy:

Reviewer E.A. Solinas at Amazon sums them up better than I can.

  • Tempost-Tost (read 12/5/07) recommended

Tempest-Tost opens with the organization of an amateur production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A motley crew of actors join it, including an exuberant professor, his quiet daughter, a quiet mama’s boy, a beautiful rich girl, a womanizing soldier, and an infatuated schoolteacher. Love, ambition, jealousy and infatuation rapidly tangle together, climaxing in an unusually dramatic opening night.

  • Leaven of Malice (read 12/6/07) recommended

Leaven of Malice is half satire and half mystery. The Salterton Bellman announces that Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace are engaged — the only problem is that it isn’t true. Professor Vambrace sees it as a personal affront, and sues the paper. Pearl and Solly are haunted by false rumors, reports, and claims about who faked the announcement. All they can do is try to find out themselves.

  • A Mixture of Frailties (read 12/8/07) recommended

A Mixture of Frailties opens with the death of Solly’s domineering mother. Her will leaves money to Solly’s family only if he produces a male heir with his wife Veronica (previously known as Pearl); until then, her money is to be used in a trust for a young female artistic hopeful, who will go to Europe for a few years to study whatever she is good at. And finding the right girl is only the start of Solly’s problems.

Cornish Trilogy:

  • The Rebel Angels (read 9/6/07) recommended
  • Bred In The Bone (read 9/25/07) recommended)
  • The Lyre of Orpheus (read 10/19/07) recommended

(Jack Illingworth) The Rebel Angels revolves around the execution of a difficult will. In this case, the estate is of one Francis Cornish, a fantastically rich patron and collector of Canadian art and a noted antiquarian bibliophile. A lost Rabelais manuscript is rumoured to be among his possessions, and his executors include the deliciously revolting Renaissance scholar Urquhart McVarish; Professor Clement Hollier, a classically middle-aged inhabitant of the ivory tower; and the Reverend Simon Darcourt, Davies’s obligatory humanist clergyman. A heroine is provided in the form of Maria Theotoky, a beautiful Ph.D. student of Professor Hollier’s. A rich, funny, and slightly ribald campus novel results, one that revels in the fustian of the now-vanished pre-postmodern university.

The Cornish Trilogy is by far the most arcane of Davies’s major works. The later volumes, What’s Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus, extend out of the corporeal world, bringing angels, daimons, and souls in limbo into the fray.

Did Davies adapt parts of Han van Meegeren‘s story in creating Francis Cornish?