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A reader's guide to The Deptford Trilogy

Updated Saturday, 1st September 2007

The tales in these three books start in rural Canada, but take the reader much, much further.

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Who killed Boy Staunton? The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies revolves around a murder mystery; but, as the author develops the plot, the reader becomes absorbed in a strange world of myth, magic, psychology, and history; often far removed from rural Deptford in Canada, where the action begins.

Each book in the trilogy centres around a principal character. Fifth Business relates, in the first person, the story of Dunstan Ramsay and his relationship with Staunton and Paul Dempster; both childhood friends - and enemies.

Ramsay provides the "glue" which sticks the trilogy together. The Manticore concentrates on David Staunton, Boy’s son, and explores his psychiatric examination following the death of his father.

Magic paraphernalia

The final book, World of Wonders, focuses on Paul Dempster: through his ill treatment and exploitation as a child, to his success as a formidable magician and entertainer.

The novels explore aspects of the human condition, and are structured exquisitely. Davies was born in Ontario in 1913, and studied in Toronto and at Balliol College, Oxford. A man of many talents, he worked as a teacher, actor, playwright, editor, publisher, university lecturer, essayist and novelist. He penned The Deptford Trilogy in his late 50s/early 60s, bringing a lifetime’s experience to his writing.

After his death in 1995, the obituary in The Times observed that Davies "combined deep seriousness and psychological inquiry with fantasy and exuberant mirth". Although The Deptford Trilogy can appear daunting at first, it delivers on many levels!


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