The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies

You know what my favorite thing about this book was?  And don’t think I’m saying this in an anti-Rebel-Angels way at all, because I’m not and I loved Parlabane even though his (spoilers, I guess?) farewell letter was silly.  My favorite thing about this book is that the main character (I think I can call her that), Maria, has a mum that reads Tarot cards, and she reads the Five of Coins (our Pentacles) to mean a loss, but a far greater gain is coming.  The very next day, I was doing a reading for my sister, and I realized I had reached a friendly comfortable understanding of the Five of Pentacles, previously amongst my least favorite of the Tarot cards.  I don’t read it exactly like Maria’s mum, but I do feel friendly with it now.  So DO NOT FEAR.  If I am doing your cards and you come up Five of Pentacles, I am all set.  You will not have to worry anymore that I am slightly making shit up.

The Rebel Angels is set at a university, and it’s hard to describe the main thrust of the plot, because there are a number of things going on.  Student Maria Theotoky is trying to come to terms with her Gypsy heritage; her supervising professor and erstwhile lover Hollier is executing the will of a recently deceased colleague, along with fellow professor and priest Darcourt, and an unpleasant insinuating fellow called Urquhart McVarish like the guy (Urquhart anyway) in Strong Poison.  Hollier’s old decadent friend Parlabane, recently escaped from being a priest and intent on pestering Maria as much as possible, is also floating around making trouble.

Oh, and Hollier compliments Oscar Wilde, making it impossible for me to think ill of him.  He said a kinder and more generous person never walked in shoe leather – yes, I remember it his exact words, because it’s perfectly true of course! and because I am like Oscar Wilde’s Jewish mama and every time someone gives him a compliment I want to post it on a big sign and have a plane fly around with the message out in back.  You know how they do.

Reading the end didn’t make any difference to the rest of the book, which just goes to show it’s not terribly plot-driven.  Ordinarily I do not love a book as chatty as this one, but it held my interest anyway, which I feel like goes to show something but I don’t know what.  I was pleased that McVarish (spoilers!) was going to come to a sticky end.  I wanted him to come to a sticky end.  Actually I liked the way things wrapped up, because things were sort of done after that.  I felt.  In terms of that nobody had to keep worrying about Maria, and she had her manuscript to study and she could produce an important work.  Hooray.

I should read Rabelais.  I hear (not just from this book, from other places too) that he is a riot.

Other views: Jackie at Farm Lane Books, Orpheus Sings the Guitar Electric

Tell me if I missed yours!

4 thoughts on “The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies

  1. I think this book is really just the first third of a big book. The second is supposed to be amazing, but I haven’t got round to reading it yet. You’ve reminded me that I really should pick it up soon – thank you!

    • I didn’t realize that! Interesting. And I thought things had been wrapped up so nicely – but now that I think about it, there probably is a lot more that could be done with these characters.

  2. it held my interest anyway, which I feel like goes to show something but I don’t know what

    exactly! well, for me it’s exactly what I felt about Fifth Business, and I don’t know what either.

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