Carol's Reviews > What's Bred in the Bone

What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies
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's review
May 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: literary-fiction
Read in October, 2005

This is the second book in Davies' Cornish trilogy, which began with The Rebel Angels. However, it's not a trilogy in the usual contiguous story divided into three books sense. What's Bred in the Bone backtracks from The Rebel Angels to tell the life story of Francis Cornish, whose death and estate was the catalyst for the main events of the first book. And it turns out to be a tale every bit as entertaining and rich as the academic hijinks of the first book.
Francis Cornish grows up in early 20th century rural Canada, among a family still in the grip of Victorian sensibilities and morality. Francis early on acquires a love of art, and shows considerable artistic talent. Yet he does not become an artist himself, instead becoming an art expert and, almost incidentally, a British spy during WWII. The novel focuses on the path and the people that make Francis who and what he is. Davies portrays the art world with as much wit and warmth as he does the academic world, yet this book is much more serious than its predecessor. It's not a bit less enjoyable to read, however.

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