Fifth Business

Fifth Business - Robertson Davies, Gail Godwin

What a brilliant book. hands-down brilliant. I was a little hesitant about it when our English teachers told us how amazing "Fifth Business" is, especially since I have found that my literary tastes and theirs don't always cross paths. And at first I was a little suspicious once I started reading, but about twenty pages in I completely warmed up to the book and was engulfed in the story and its characters.

"Fifth Business" deserves all the praise it gets - there is so much thought and meaning inlaid in what originally comes across as being simple. I think it's books like these that truly show just how easily people can take things for granted and fail to see the beauty in what is simple and surrounds us on a daily basis. The characters in this book are stellar, each one playing such a well-developed and precise role that it's easy to love them when they do something deserving of this love, or dislike them when they have done something deserving of dislike. Especially wonderful was Ramsay's retelling and the way in which his character evolved, through his own memories, and the level of personal recognition and realization he achieved. Apart from Ramsay, Liesl was my second favourite character but the favourite out of the females. I'm still trying to find the history behind her name and the allusion behind it (I'm more than sure there is one) but it is that duality that Ramsay felt towards her, and which she herself exhibited, that was so brilliant, a wise but at the same time frustrating character that in the end is the one who ends up giving Ramsay his major revelation, or at least nudges him on to it.

And the writing itself. What I noticed most was the "of course" and hesitant diction throughout the book that was cleverly used without making it too obvious, but frequent enough that on a subconscious level it becomes easy to recognize and elicits a (very appropriate in the context of the book) reaction from the reader. And so many thoughts as well, the constant religious allusions and themes that our touched upon, the issue of social conventions and memory. This was a feast for the mind, with depth that kept the mind going as well as humour and intrigue on the surface to make reading effortless and interesting.

This, I think, is the best book out of all the ones I have been forced to read for school, and I'm very glad that our teachers, specifically the head of my program, insisted on choosing this from the list of book options. I'll revisit it in years to come to pick up on some more thoughts I'm sure I didn't pick up, the subtleties that'll come with time. For now however I feel quite happy at having read such a fascinating novel and for giving the book a chance, despite my initial skepticism.