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World of Wonders

(The Deptford Trilogy #3)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  4,135 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Hailed by the Washington Post Book World as "a modern classic," Robertson Davies’s acclaimed Deptford Trilogy is a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven. World of Wonders—the third book in the series after The Manticore—follows the story of Magnus Eisengrim—the most illustrious magician of his age—who is ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1975)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  4,135 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
Canadian Gothic: The Uses of Illusion

If the first part of the Deptford Trilogy, Fifth Business, explores the bare facts of rural Canada on the turn to a more civilized and ethnicly diverse culture; and if the second part, The Manticore, suggests the fundamental ideas that shape these facts; then this third part, World of Wonders, provides the parallel universe of feeling that is the substrate of both facts and ideas. World of Wonders retells the previous stories, filling in the missing material
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
My 5 star rating of this book really reflects my feelings on how I think Davies masterfully wrapped up the Deptford trilogy than it does an individual rating for this volume itself (don’t get me wrong, it’s great, but I think Fifth Business is the strongest, and best, volume in the trilogy). I guess I’d say that the individual books themselves range from around 3.5 to 4.5 stars, but the series overall is a five star read. As with all of the Deptford books _World of Wonders_ is a personal memoir ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
So bizarre. So perfect. So Canada.
Diane S ☔
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
An amazing trilogy, all taken together. Ramsay was by far my favorite character and was glad to see him back in this last story.Also loved learning how Paul became an amazing magician. More of Liesel was in this book and I found her character fascinating. Of course the big question of who killed Boy Staunton is solved in this ending piece.

Wonderfully well written this whole trilogy pinpointed the small minds that can live in a village, where everyone knows everything about each other. Judgments
Ben Babcock
Yay, Ramsay is back! Not that David Staunton was a terrible narrator, but I will always, always have a soft spot in my heart for that irascible old teacher, descended from Scots and obsessed with saints. And now here he is, back to narrating the book. Sort of.

Although Ramsay is technically the narrator, he is consigned to the frame story, and Magnus Eisengrim (or Paul Dempster, back when he was from Deptford) takes centre stage. World of Wonders is notable if only for the fact that most of the
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
World ofWonders completes Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy, giving the reader a third window on the same period of time—after Dunstan Ramsey and David Staunton, now Magnus Eisengrim aka Paul Dempster. Although this book is nominally narrated by Ramsey, it is Eisengrim’s story that is highlighted, with Ramsey reporting [the recording angel?]—the trip from being Nobody to being very much Somebody.

This is very much a universal trip, that of being Nobody within our mothers’ wombs to becoming
Jul 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Who killed Boy Staunton? That's the question finally answered in this final installment of Davies' Deptford Trilogy. The first book "Fifth Business" is the best of the bunch and worth reading on its own. The second ,"The MAnticore" is a bit dull and this one is somewhat better. It's certainly an interesting bunch of characters but I am not sure it was worth reading the entire trilogy just to tie up the loose ends from the first book.
Paul Secor
Rating should probably be 3 1/2 stars. Read this last volume of the trilogy before I've read the first two. Probably the wrong way to do it, but that's how it went. This volume was enjoyable enough that I'll read the others at some point.

Edited review and rating: Once again, reading the novel in the order in which it was intended to be read made all the difference.
Robertson Davies was the Dickens of the last half of the 20th century.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' -- From the Letter to the Hebrews

Davies' Deptford Trilogy is completed by this, World of Wonders, and like the New Testament phrase from the Epistle to the Hebrews, is about the evidence of things not seen. As is reiterated a couple or more times in these pages, "Without attention to detail there is no illusion," and true to this epigram we focus a great deal of attention on establishing how illusion is created,
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
The first hundred pages seems to drag as we delve into Paul Dempster's early life as a carny. However, World of Wonders finally begins to take off as Dempster arrives in Europe and we are introduced to some interesting new characters with whom we can sympathize
Davies saves the last fifty pages of the trilogy to finally give us some tidbits into the life and personality of Liesl whom, for myself, was one of the most interesting characters in the entire series.

As to the Deptford trilogy itself,
Nov 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Much as it pains me to say it about one of my favorite writers, this is not my favorite Davies book. Lots of people love this trilogy, but I prefer his later Cornish trilogy.

To be fair: it's still a Robertson Davies book, so it's still beautifully written, and full of oddments of history and philosophy that can leave you breathless. I'm giving it three stars as judged against the very high standards of the Davies oeuvre, not against fiction in general.
Victor Sonkin
Well, "Fifth Business" keeps its place as No. 1 in the Deptford Trilogy for me, but both of the other books, and World of Wonders especially, are almost encroaching on it. A pseudo-memoir, an extravaganza of unreliable narration, a panorama of carnie life in Canadian wilderness and of theater life in interbellum London, with a couple of twists and turns along the way. The trilogy is a must-read.
Daniel Polansky
In the third book in the Deptford trilogy we are finally privileged to hear the life story of the world's greatest illusionist, an infrequent though critical participant in the previous two novels. After all that build up I was expecting more than a rather tedious depiction of life as a Canadian carnie and a minor theatrical participant, and honestly the thematic heart of the trilogy – that we create meaning in our lives by casting ourselves as heroes in our own stories – is bluntly presented ...more
Michael Bedford
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading the final instalment of Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy a little while ago. This novel is the longest in the series at around double the length of the previous two. Davies's character-driven style is pushed to the limit in this novel highlighting the life and times of Magnus Eisengrim, readers of the previous novels will remember Eisengrim as a close confidante of both Dunstan Ramsay and David Staunton, as described by himself.

Eisengrim's incredibly detailed and
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2013
The Deptford Trilogy comes full circle with this installment, where Magnus Eisengrim relates the story of his life to Dunstan Ramsey and a handful of others. Through this telling, readers get another perspective on some events from the previous books - especially Fifth Business - but Magnus as a narrator (and a character) is very different from Ramsey and David Staunton.

Ramsey is actually our main narrator, as in Fifth Business, and readers have access to his thoughts and feelings, but his
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, reread, 2019
The crux of World of Wonders is the tension between two ways of viewing the world. One is magical, cosmic, mythic, viewing everything as a kind of romantic drama. The other is realistic, cynical, intellectual, challenging. These two approaches are embodied in a kind of dialectic that emerges between Magnus and Roly, an old acquaintance from Magnus's theater days. Magnus defends the romantic worldview, speaking in favor of old-fashioned plays centered around heroes and villains, fantastic ...more
Eugene Lakinsky
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, canada
The plot (that's to say Magnus', Roly's and Liesl's stories) is certainly very interesting. And the Magnus-Roly conflict takes us by surprise. Actually, the whole book looks like a theatrical play, where a secondary character who set quietly for a half of the performance suddenly gets up and turns out to be the protagonist's old enemy :) And that's impressive.

The descriptions of the circus' inside world and the Canadian tour of Sir John's troupe are wonderful. The last hour of Boy's life was a
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dree his weird...that's the summation of the 'epic' question to this fascinating Deptford trilogy: "Who killed Boy Staunton?" Like many reviewers, I found this third--and 'unfortunate' ending to this series (unfortunate in the sense I did not want it to end)--a bit more difficult to read as it is at times a rambling monologue of Magnus Eisengrim's point of view of his life. The first section of the book (A Bottle in the Smoke) tells of his travails in the carnival followed by (Merlin's Laugh) a ...more
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own-a-copy
This is the third book of "The Deptford Trilogy" <-----A masterpiece.

Interesting message implies here ,that while one takes accountability for one's actions is imperative to understand that there must be a limitation on your guilt.

"Who killed Boy Staunton ? " -"dree his weird "( his suffering) -What a perfectly and logically mystery resolved at the end .
Bizarre,inspiring ,engaging read.Loved it!!!

Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After the triumph that was Fifth Business and the wonderful sequel The Manticore, I wondered how the series would end and also how this book would stand against the previous impeccable books. While not as good as the first book, because few things are, this was still an amazing read. Paul Dempster's life is odd but enthralling and the story brings the events of Fifth Business full circle and closes the trilogy nicely.
Nov 28, 2009 rated it liked it
This was my least favorite out of the Deptford Trilogy. It was still a good read, and it was interesting to learn what really happened to Boy Staunton, but something about Magnus Eisengrim just annoyed me!
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think I may have the entire Deptford Trilogy on the bookshelf upstairs. These are great books, well worth revisiting. So many books, so little time!
Jackie "the Librarian"
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: if you like weird characters
The weirdest and most fantastic of the Deptford Trilogy.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017

Read in the trilogy omnibus edition. Review here.
Sandy Salzinger
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Davies’s writing is a joy to read. His storytelling is psychologically insightful and compelling. His characters are unforgettable. I’m inspired to read the Cornish trilogy.
Amanda Gallagher
Amazing! World of Wonders completes the trilogy of the Deptford boys and brings the questions of their world to a close at last. I highly recommend this entire series, and I'm surprised it took me a decade to complete it myself!
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it
Maybe the best privilege of being a Canadian reader is how easy it is to find Robertson Davies books at thrift stores. Mind you, this is only based off my reading of his Deptford Trilogy (quick note: I am nearly certain that Davies based Deptford off a small Ontario town less than half an hour away from where I grew up), but Davies' writing is so good that I'm confident he rises above the rest of Canada's authors, and above many of America's top authors of the last century.
Fortunately this book
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it
A reread of the Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies to recreate a love affair with the books I had back in the 1980's. Oh, dear, oh, dear, I can't go home again, at least not to Deptford. No magic this time. I must have been smarter 30 years ago, although I would swear not. I got the Cornish trilogy and the Salterton trilogy, one of which I also read in the '80's, and they are sitting lumpishly on the counter waiting. Oh, dear, oh, dear.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this 3rd and final book in the trilogy. It sheds even more light on the original story begun in the first book and ties up all the missing pieces all the while entertaining the reader with the lives of carnival performers, actors in a touring group and a magician and a film crew. Very, very interesting and well written; not a book to rush through. Savor it and enjoy visiting a magical world.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
A good book to have under your belt, but not particularly exciting putting it there.
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William Robertson Davies, CC, FRSC, FRSL (died in Orangeville, Ontario) was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished "men of letters", a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of ...more

Other books in the series

The Deptford Trilogy (3 books)
  • Fifth Business (The Deptford Trilogy, #1)
  • The Manticore (The Deptford Trilogy, #2)
“Boredom and stupidity and patriotism, especially when combined, are three of the greatest evils of the world we live in.” 49 likes
“The egotist is all surface; underneath is a pulpy mess and a lot of self-doubt. But the egoist may be yielding and even deferential in things he doesn't consider important; in anything that touches his core he is remorseless.” 12 likes
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