I’m thrilled to finally be giving some extra attention to one of my favorite authors, along with several blogging friends who have kindly agreed to do guest posts or to allow me to link to their planned reviews. The week will be August 25 to 31, to coordinate with Davies’s birthdate, August 28. Davies died in 1995 at the age of 82, but we will celebrate his 106th birthday in his honor.
More about that later — for now, the important thing is for you to find something to read. Some people have asked about a recommended order or starting point for Davies’s work, so here is a brief guide to your choices. This is not an exhaustive bibliography, but I have personally read and enjoyed every book on this list, and I hope you will too. Links are to Goodreads for plot summaries and further information.
Davies wrote eleven full-length novels, which fall into three trilogies related by setting and characters, plus two final novels that would have become a trilogy had he lived to complete the third. The “trilogy” idea was influenced by the work of Joyce Cary, a novelist Davies admired greatly. (If you have time to do some related reading, Cary’s trilogy culminating in The Horse’s Mouth is well worth a look.)
I do not think it’s absolutely necessary to read any of the trilogies in order. Characters and events are introduced in earlier books that are more meaningful in later books when you have that background. However, these are not conventionally chronological series; often they explore the same material from different points of view, or are set in the same location but otherwise loosely connected.
Where to begin? I started with his first novel, Tempest-Tost, and never looked back. Many people begin with Fifth Business, probably his most well-known work. My personal favorite, What’s Bred in the Bone, is the middle book of a trilogy but can be read on its own. His last novel, The Cunning Man, is a standalone that deals with mortality and the art of healing, unsurprisingly at the forefront of an aging novelist’s concerns. But there are many other possibilities; I would say to feel free to pick up the book that intrigues you the most for whatever reason, and if you like it you can move on to the others.
Davies wrote and lectured on a wide variety of subjects, and many of these pieces have been collected in various forms. If you share any of Davies’s “enthusiasms” — notably music, the theatre, and of course reading — you may enjoy these as well.
If you just can’t get enough RD, check out his collected letters, diaries, the early newspaper columns by his alter ego Samuel Marchbanks, or his ghost stories told each Christmastime while he was Master of Massey College.
Whew! Just making this list has made me itchy to get reading. I hope you have been inspired as well, and that you’ll join us for the week. What would you like to pick up first?