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Robertson Davies

2,392 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0670859117 / ISBN 13: 9780670859115
Published by Viking, New York, 1995
From Rare Book Cellar (Pomona, NY, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Very Good+ in a Very Good+ price clipped dust jacket. ; 9.30 X 6.10 X 1.60 inches; 480 pages; Original dust jacket protected by archival Brodart cover. All domestic orders shipped protected in a Box. Bookseller Inventory # 85189

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: Viking, New York

Publication Date: 1995

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: First Edition; First Printing.

About this title


 “A delight, a novel that travels 70 years of history on its own swift feet, a book of love and wisdom, loss and irony”—The Boston Sunday Globe

When Father Hobbes mysteriously dies at the high alter on Good Friday, Dr. Jonathan Hullah – whose holistic work has earned him the label “Cunning Man” (for the wizard of folk tradition) – wants to know why. The physician-cum-diagnostician’s search for answers compels him to look back over his own long life. He conjures vivid memories of the dazzling, intellectual high jinks and compassionate philosophies of himself and his circle, including flamboyant, mystical curate Charlie Iredale; cynical, quixotic professor Brocky Gilmartin; outrageous banker Darcy Dwyer; and jocular, muscular artist Pansy Todhunter. In compelling and hilarious scenes from the divine comedy of life, The Cunning Man reveals profound truth about being human.

The crowning achievement of “one of the most learned, amusing... accomplished novelists of our time and... of our century.” – The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap:

This novel of a doctor?s life shows Robertson Davies at his elegant and entertaining best.

??Never neglect the charms of narrative for the human heart,? said Mr. Ramsay.? And we are back at Colborne College listening to the history teacher Dunstan Ramsay, the narrator of Fifth Business. In his audience are three close friends, boys whose lives will closely intertwine: Brocky Gilmartin, who will become a distinguished Professor of English at Waverly University; Charlie Iredale, destined to become an Anglican priest; and our narrator, Jonathon Hullah, soon to be a medical man.

?I am an observer,? says Dr. Hullah; like his predecessor in Fifth Business he has gone through a rich life always slightly on the outside, watching, noticing. His power of observation is the quality that makes him an extraordinary doctor. Known as ?The Cunning Man,? he enjoys fame as a diagnostician that attracts even the Governor General, who comes to him with a very personal problem. His skill also makes him a perceptive storyteller and a shrewd chronicler of what he calls ?flat-footed, hard-breathing, high-aspiring Toronto.?

Jonathon Hullah has watched the growth of the city over a lifetime; first as a boy from Northern Ontario at Colborne College, then as an undergraduate, then as a medical student at the University who falls in love both with the stage and with the lovely Nuala Conor. Away on war service in Europe he loses Nuala to his best friend, but returns to the city with a greater desire to settle down and become a doctor with a practice rooted in somewhat unconventional medical beliefs.

When he does, he finds himself thrown into contact with ?the Ladies? ? the two English artists who establish an artistic salon which everyone attends. He also finds himself thrown into the high drama of the feuds at St Aidan?s Anglican Church, which involve his school friend Charlie Iredale, and which culminate in a very suspicious death at the altar.

In the course of Dr. Hullah?s extended memoir, we encounter at least one miraculous cure, and one well-publicised miracle; a Bad Breath Contest of Olympian standards; tales of cannibals and of Tsarist bordellos; an extended visit to Salterton; life in the Canadian army in the Second World War; horror in the London Blitz, a row in the dining room of the York Club; the murder of Dr. Hullah?s godson, Conor Gilmartin; medical solutions to several literary mysteries; and much insight into theatre, art and music (including Miss Annie McGruder?s very own composition ?Let me call you Jesus?), not to mention the secrets of a doctor?s consulting room.

This novel allows Robertson Davies to display his wit (school, he tells us, is ?a form of jail with educational opportunities?) and his wisdom in a novel which, of course, never neglects the charm of narrative for the human heart.

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