Book Thirty-Six: The Rebel Angels

Robertson Davies again.  I think we’ll probably go through his entire collected works this year, book by book. And perhaps we’ll have a few repeats. I just can’t help myself. And my books weren’t in at the library yet. This is actually the first book in the Cornish Trilogy, but it’s a good standalone book, too.

This book is also about a world dear to my heart: academia. It’s a brilliantly funny, biting send-up of the academic world, complete with stereotypical professors, bitter scholarly arguments over precious manuscripts, and a bit of mystery courtesy of the gypsy community. It may be one of my favourite Davies books, because the characters are so rich and so complex that I can’t help but like them, and it’s nice to know that there are two other books in the series which allow you to get to know them a bit better.

This book also really showcases how insanely well educated Davies is. It’s really a great pity that people don’t go in for old-fashioned education anymore, because the benefits of it are really quite immense. What makes this book brilliant are the snide scholarly jokes, the poking fun at academics, the amazing breadth of knowledge that Davies has, and few people seem to have that these days, at least in the humanities. We’re all so focused on our own issues that we’re all about nearsighted, honestly.

If you’re going to read one Davies book, I really think that this should be the one.  It’s got everything a girl (or boy) could want. Lurid sexual practices, renegade monks, rebel angels, spoiled rich boys with surprising depth, luthiers, and a penis bone. Need I say more?


The Rebel Angels, by Robertson Davies. Published 1982, 326 pages. Fiction.