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Barbara MacLeod

A Bouquet of Blue Flowers to you for a wonderful choice!

Being born (1940's) and raised in Canada, I was able to enjoy the story on all sorts of levels - the snow and snowballs, the small town with its numerous churches, the various church people, the men returning from the war.

The scope and scale of the story was immense! So dense! It took me ages to read as I kept stoppng to look things up e.g. Bollandists, St Dunstan. I have never been what might be called "a reader" and, amazingly, I notice that I have always like what other people call "heavy" books! So ...I loved this book! It gets top rating which means: I Want to Read It Again (as opposed to bottom rating: Bin It). I liked all the Jungian stuff - the meaningfull coincidences, the way he develops the story in relation to 'spiritual' aspects (as opposed to 'religious').

But, as always, it was the character portrayal that enthralled me. I recognized the various types of people that were in the story :

[1] "The Classics Scholar". While they may not be studying saints, I know people who would, in another age, have gone into The Church but nowadays they ended up being surgeons, scientists or civil engineers. They like the contemplative life, life of the historian, the writer. Now that they are retired they turn their attention to their first love, e.g. Greek literature, philosophy.

[2] "Marginal Members of Society". People you find in circuses, who were born with some sort of chromosonal (or other) anomaly, e.g. bearded lady.

[3] "The Weak and Inadequate". Amasa Dempster who keeps his wife tied to a chair.

[4] "Extra-ordinary Women". Mrs Dempster, i.e. women who exhibit forms of behaviour that we cannot explain. Some cultures burn them at the stake; some deify them.

[5] "We Who Know Best". Boy Staunton and friends when they talk about "ordinary fellows" who are "other people who cannot think straight".

Lots of images stick in my mind - a mark of a good book! - but none more so than "people whose own love-lives were pitched in the key of C". Wonderful! A challenge to myself: I am going to try to create some kind of graphical image to portray this! And on that topic, I loved your snowball (cakes) image - so clever!

Mary McCartney

I liked this book very much and thought Dunstan Ramsey a very intriguing character. My copy of the book includes the other two books in the Deptford trilogy and I'll certainly be reading them. I thought Davies portrayed all his characters very well and I especially liked the image of the young Dunstan/Dunstable standing by the stovepipe to hear the latest bulletins on Mrs Dempster's condition.
My favourite line in the book was where Orph the solicitor was described as 'a gallant little particle'. 'Fifth Business was a wonderfully rich reading experience.


I hadn't actually heard of this book but it sounds very fascinating. I wonder why it had never showed up on my radar?

Barbara MacLeod

Why indeed ... a good question. It seems a common story and wonder if it is to do with (a) country - Canada (b) content - cerebral? A puzzle....


Davies' wicked sense of humor, his observations about about society's conventions (and his ability to poke fun at them!), and his skill at simply spinning a good yarn made these books utterly addictive reading for me. I went from one to the other.


I was glad of the prompt to read this again, and enjoyed it as much as on first reading. I'm curious to know whether other people actually liked Dunstan Ramsay? I don't, I find him prissy, and pretty much as summed up by Liesl, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked Davies either, although I find his writing witty and intriguing. But, although there's really no one I like at all in the Deptford Trilogy, which is normally something that puts me off a book, I find it very hard to put down. Both sense of humour and a good story have a lot to do with it, but I feel quite ambivalent about the Jungian preoccupations - they both fascinate me and repel me in almost equal measure.

Regarding Davies' lack of popularity in the UK, I think it's partly as Barbara suggests, country - Canadian literature didn't really have much impact here until Atwood, and in comparison with her, Davies is an old-fashioned writer. Of course, that quality is a virtue in my eyes, and over the summer I'm planning to re-read both the Salterton and Cornish trilogies, which I would certainly recommend to anyone who hasn't read them.

adele geras

So sorry, Cornflower....I haven't managed to get to this this time. I read the whole Deptford Trilogy in the early 70s and haven't been back to it since. I only remember that I did love it at the time. I must make an effort to get hold of the whole lot again. I don't know why this has eluded me. Not been concentrating enough on buying of books. More diligent next time...

Curzon Tussaud

Some years ago I read, and loved, "What's bred in the bone", with the other books in that trilogy (Salterton?)so it was with delight that I picked up "Fifth Business", and I was not disappointed.
Davies is very skilled at blending the appealing and the unlikeable in one person, and maybe that is the fascination of his characters. They are, like ourselves, both pleasant and unpleasant to a greater or lesser degree, but he manages to imbue the 'respectable' with an almost imperceptible overlay of raffishness or danger, and that is what sucks us in.
My favourite line is where Ramsay describes his status as a guest at the Stauntons' table:
"Having me in the dining-room was almost the equivalent of having a Raeburn on the walls; I was classy, I was heavily varnished, and I offended nobody."
Davies must have enjoyed naming Ramsay's sexual partners homophonically as Agnes Day, Gloria Mundy and Libby Doe, but later in the book he describes Fifth Business as "the odd man out, the person who has no opposite of the other sex" and indeed Ramsay leaves the book as single as he arrives there.

Dark Puss

I am not as enthusiastic about this book as the other commentators, indeed I nearly abandoned reading it after the first hundred or so pages. Of course had I done that I'd be disqualifying myself from the CBG under my self-imposed rules so I carried on. In fairness I should say that I was reading it in parallel with Accordion Crimes which although I think less "well written" was much more engaging. The book came rather more alive for me towards the end and I was certainly taken with Dunstan's involvement with the circus. I found Dunstan's self-awareness more wearing than appealing. I didn't go on to read the other volumes of the trilogy which followed on in my library copy.

B MacLeod

I think you've nailed what this book is basically about in your final paragraph. I had not picked that up ... thanks for your thought-provoking input!

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