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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies. New York: Viking, 1989. ISBN: 067082416X

This book is the third in the author’s “Cornish Trilogy.” The other two novels are titled The Rebel Angels and What’s Bred in the Bone, respectively. The books stand quite well on their own, however, and don’t necessarily have to be read in order. But I can almost guarantee that if you read one, you’ll eventually want to read the others. Davies (1913-1995), one of Canada’s greatest novelists, is definitely addictive. Shortly after I discovered him as an author, a decade or so ago, I relentlessly devoured everything by him that I could lay my hands on. If you like literate, erudite and totally engrossing fiction, try Davies.

The Lyre of Orpheus tells the story of a wealthy foundation which decides to fund a project to complete and stage E.T.A. Hoffman’s unfinished opera titled Arthur of Britain, or the Magnanimous Cuckold. Of course, the foundation’s president is also named Arthur, and parallels between the opera and real life are cleverly exploited. But to describe the plot really doesn’t do the book justice. As I mentioned, I first read this book some 10 years or more ago, but recently re-read it through the medium of a book on tape, as read by Frederick Davidson. It kept me great company as I traveled up and down Highway 101 in Oregon’s Tillamook and Lincoln Counties, visiting the libraries I work for. I can’t recommend this, or any of Davies other novels, highly enough.

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