This is the middlebook in the famous Canadian “Deptford trilogy.” Ms. R gave me the first and third books several years ago to bolster my meager canon of Can-Lit and I relished the introductions. The Christmas brought, from her, a first edition of the middle book, THE MANTICORE, so I went back and re-read the first to prepare for the second and am now on, again, the third.
This is the odd-man-out book of the trilogy. It is focussed on a minor character in the first book, is for the most part not set in Canada, departs considerably from the themes and nature of the first book, and stands alone (like a good second trilogy book should) as a story unto itself.
Like the other books, Davies gives us crisp articulation and imagination that moves and surprises. The story arc is sweeping. I really liked these elements:
1. The first book explores the rise of small town people in a larger world. This one explores the son of one of these characters as a personal journey of a larger world boy needing to learn the small of himself. It is an inversion carefully and beautifully, as they say about illusion, pulled off.
2. There are consequences, in Davies’ class-defined, democratically instinctive Canadian/British world. A lot of them are of ambition as defined by individuals. Does the ambition of the son ever live up to the ambition of the father? And what of the ambition(s) of women, including mothers and daughter, when harnessed to patriarchy and capitalism and success? Davies explores these themes very very well, especially for a book of the 1970s rather than a generation later.
3. I learned a lot about Jungian analysis. I did not go into this book wanting to learn a lot about Jungian analysis for I am not big on self-analysis, much less systems of analysis as invented by others. I can be mean about this kinda thing. Why blame childhood (Freud) for a fully grown adult’s failure to deal with issues? And if so, why does childhood also not get any credit for adult success? Really, isn’t there anytime when an adult is fully and completely making his/her own decisions without all the power of others’ influences defining these choices? Jung is not much different in this desire to find others the defining nature of the individual, but he is way different in that he is not overly attached to toilet training and breast feeding and what not. So I’m good with that.
3. The book is crafted. It is a pleasure to read, to follow, to be a part of. The characters are strong and purposeful. the story is clear and compelling, and it is a book one wants to finish rather than simply get through.
Thank you, Mr. Davies. It is a pleasure! And Thank You Ms R. It is a PLEASURE to be pushed into the great world of you and Can-Lit. 3 weeks ago