112. 10/11/11 –
The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies –
(book 1 of The Cornish Trilogy) – 1981 – 311 pages – finished 10/11/11 rating 9 – paperback
Excellent novel of ideas by a master. This is the story of several professors at a university in – probably – Toronto. There are two first persons who take turns telling the tale. The first is Simon Darcourt, the university Anglican priest and theologian, the second is Maria Theotoky, a talented grad student who works with another professor. Her specialty is Rabelius.
Francis Cornish is dead and it’s left to Darcourt along with a professors Hollier (with whom Maria works) and McVarish to sort out his collections. Cornish’s nephew, Arthur, is overall executor. The collections are worth a lot of money and contain precious objects from the specialties of each of the professors.
The plot wanders around for a long time and in the hands of a lesser writer that would be disastrously boring. But with Davies it’s just time enough to introduce and develop some very interesting characters and themes.
Maria is of Gypsy (Roma) heritage and she is running away from that. McVarish is gay. Darcourt contemplates theological underpinnings. Hollier is a very ambitious man. Both Darcourt and Hollier are in love with Maria. And then along comes Parlebane, a brilliant but defrocked and poverty-stricken monk who is an arrogant skeptic. We’re also introduced to Ozia Froats who specializes in the study of feces, Maria’s mother who is ethnically Gypsy. I’d love to read the next two books in the trilogy but … time…