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The Salterton Trilogy: Tempest-Tost; Leaven of Malice; A Mixture of Frailties

(The Salterton Trilogy #1-3)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,715 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The Salterton Trilogy consists of the first three novels by Davies: Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958). Davies was awarded the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1955 for Leaven of Malice.

The trilogy revolves around the residents of the imaginary town of Salterton, Ontario. Described by some reviewers as satirical, bawdily humo
Paperback, 816 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1958)
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4.35  · 
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 ·  1,715 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the Seventies and Eighties, most Americans who developed a fondness for the novels of the late Robertson Davies started out with the three novels hitched together as the DEPTFORD TRILOGY, which chronicled the life of Canada in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century through the eyes of three not-quite-friends from the same village of Deptford, Ontario. Many of those readers eagerly snapped up the three interlinked novels Davies wrote in the Eighties, set in a small academic community, r ...more
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Clever, witty and always erudite, the Salterton Trilogy invites the reader to settle down in a typical yet extraordinary provincial Canadian town. As always, the satire is seen through the prism of art, each book dealing respectively with the theatre, local journalism and finally patronage, all of it warped by the quirky context. The characters are memorable, and as they reappear from book to book, they gain depth and of course zaniness.
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entirely character-driven. Robertson Davies’ characters are interesting and charismatic. This is one of Davies’ wittier works and a real enjoyment to read.
In this first part of The Salteron Trilogy, the characters develop and mature, without much happening as to plot, while the themes of “manners” and “morals” and “decorum” weave throughout the story. The times are changing and the rift between the middle-aged and the young is emphasized.

Leaven of Malice
An amusing look a the "ripple
The Salterton Trilogy includes Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958). This was Davies' first set of novels. The stories all begin in the Canadian city of Salterton and two young people, Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Veronica Vambrace, provide a connecting thread of sorts between the books. Tempest-Tost focuses on a community theater troupe, Leaven of Malice on a newspaper, and A Mixture of Frailties on a young singer, but really they are all three about ho ...more
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is some solid fiction right here. Not as good as The Deptford or Cornish Trilogies, but all the elements of RD that you would expect. Old school bawdy humor, the hypocrisy of institutions (exposed!), the importance and progression of the artist, obtuse university profs that get their come-uppins, crazy old coots that unexpectedly have a hand in fostering young love, and much much more. You may need to have a mind like a dirty old man to enjoy this, but there are many, many good life lessons ...more
Feb 25, 2017 added it
I read straight through these, and they were fantastic, particularly the first one. Better than the other Davies trilogy I've read.
Elizabeth Bradley
Dec 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
bleak, uplifting, impossible, wonderful, smart, nasty, like Iris Murdoch dipped in whiskey and self-conscious, self-deprecating Canadianism, plus a side of Presbyterian rigor. Sigh.
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Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012, music
I've reviewed each of the books in this series separately, but as I did with the Deptford trilogy, I want to review the series as a whole as well.

Though I didn't much love the first book, Tempest-Tost, I enjoyed it and found parts of it really funny. I liked the group of characters and the town that Davies presented, and the much lighter tone was kind of a refreshing change from the heavy atmosphere of the Deptford trilogy. But it didn't draw me in like Fifth Business did, and so it took me qu
Oh, this was wonderful vacation reading (though I got some odd glances on the airplane when I started giggling helplessly several times). The three books (which I have in an omnibus) are set in the Canadian city of Salterton, home of two cathedrals, one university, and many fascinating people. As they share a setting and some characters, the books comprising the trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties) are interconnected to a large extent; they could certainly be read ind ...more
Penny McGill
Salterton is my favourite of all of Robertson Davies' books. My own copy is worn out as it's been on long business trips, short trips to the cottage and to the hospital with me twice when we had the girls (I can see that I might have made an uneducated decision to take it with the first trip to the hospital but why I did it again a second time?) I've been thinking of reading it aloud to one of our kids lately as she is interested in journalism and the role of an editor. A few days ago I met a wo ...more
Rob Tapper
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
A "Wind in the Willows" of characterisation, Dickensian in descriptive detail, and an uncanny knowledge of the realities of a great variety of human pursuits, particularly academia, artistic and professional. A thoroughly enjoyable read with the well constructed plots dovetailing well through the Trilogy. "Takes all types to make a world" in essence, just a pity the book petered out in the end when handling "death" situations and rushing to conclusions of hanging threads.
Julia Phillips
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This trilogy - "Tempest-Tost; Leaven of Malice; A Mixture of Frailties" - is what I imagine a Canadian version of the Barchester Chronicles might be. Brilliant characterisation and a wonderfully woven story that looks at the human condition in all its guises.
Caroline Wilson
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love all Robertson Davies books. This trilogy keeps popping into my thoughts.
Apr 09, 2019 added it
This was three books in one. The first two had very basic story lines, but all three had detailed character description, including minor characters. The major themes that I saw in these books were love - suitable, unsuitable, and frequently unrequited; and toxic mother-son relationships. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Dawn Ban
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dawn-s-faves
I discovered Robertson Davies many years ago, because I had to read some of his books in high school. I went on to read all of them, because I wanted too! Love his work.
Ea Solinas
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Robertson Davies excelled at creating deep, detailed stories about little communities and the strange things that happen in them.

And his Salterton trilogy is no exception. These three loosely-intwertwined books -- "Tempest Tost," "Leaven of Malice" and "A Miixture Of Frailties" -- take readers to the deceptively quaint Canadian city of Salterton, which is distinctive for having one university and two cathedrals. And while it's one of Davies' lighter works compared to his Deptford trilogy, this w
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon
This is Davies first trilogy, and, if I remember correct, his first novel was the lead-off to this, Tempest-Tost. Before writing novels, however, Davies had written several plays, so his first novel is quite accomplished. The Salterton trilogy is almost misnamed--yes, it does center around the town of Salterton, but the real center of the three books is Solomon Bridgetower. Although he is almost a minor character in the first book, he and his family are front stage in books two and three.

Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Salterton is a small Canadian village that receives attention in this fine trilogy from Robertson Davies; at least some of the people in the village receive his attention and for readers that is a good thing. While I did not enjoy this quite as much as some of his later novels, there was sufficient humor and wit to keep me entertained. In the final novel of the trilogy, Leaven of Malice, the central character Monica Gall is also the most likable character and as such kept me interested in the bo ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable books. Tempest-tost feels like the author is still establishing his style, and it is only through Leaven of malice and A Mixture of Frailties that I feel he is getting into his stride which will produce the Deptford and Cornish trilogies. Whilst these are enjoyable upbeat eads in Davies' style, they do not perhaps have the depth of his later novels. This reminds me very much of the work of Michael Frayn. Incidentally, do not be put off by it being a trilogy -- whilst the community ...more
Mark Everton
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Another brilliant trilogy and a joy to read. Leaven of Malice is particularly funny with some hilarious set pieces especially Mrs Bridgetower's Thursday "at home" session. What makes Davies wit so effective is he never stoops to low blows, sarcasm or ridicule - his tone is always impeccably polite and never judgmental, yet the foibles of all characters are clearly presented. His writing comes from another time - a time of subtlety, of measure, of elegance - his work is really something to treasu ...more
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Three part series
Davies makes a mockery of small town ladies and stage play production electricians, elderly mothers
who spite their children and spoiled girls.
Stars are an educated professor who comes back to his small town where he grew up, a singer leaves the small town by a series of events that leave the professor without a promised estate. The singer becomes world class and only comes back to the small town when her mother gets sick.
With bits of Davies greatness in between.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first Robertson Davies I'd read - believable characters and clever witty writing. Not much actually seems to happen and the plots are quite gentle, but the books are very well-written and for the most part engaging. I did get a bit bored with the final book of the trilogy, which just seemed to go on and on.
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Diminishing returns. I love Davies's style and storytelling, but these got weaker as they went on. It's hard to imagine anything topping "The Deptford Trilogy," but I'm still planning on "The Cornish Trilogy."
Mssasha19130 Ancliffe
May 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: i would recommend others by same author first
Recommended to Mssasha19130 by: Family member
I have read many of his novels before. This one I read previously as well. I remembered it as being better than it actually was. The 1 and 3rd stories are better than the second. I think his other novels are better than this one - start with the others first.

Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Early Robertson Davies, a great trilogy on the interesting and amusing inhabitants of a Canadian college town and their artistic pretensions. My favorite is the third book, "A Mixture of Frailties", about the adventures of aspiring singer Monica Gall in London.
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
These are my favorite Robertson Davies novels, particularly the first of the trilogy, Tempest-Tost. The last one , A Mixture of Frailties is a little darker in tone than the first two but is still enjoyable.
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I adored these books. Davies is so wonderfully caustic and his characters are delightful even when they are horrible. I consider this to be the "Waiting for Guffman" of the literary world: a must read for anyone involved in theatre.
Jody Kidney
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant Canadian man of letters
Christina Ward
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've been re-reading Davies...
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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 Toro ...more

Other books in the series

The Salterton Trilogy (3 books)
  • Tempest-Tost (Salterton Trilogy, #1)
  • Leaven of Malice (Salterton Trilogy, #2)
  • A Mixture of Frailties (Salterton Trilogy, #3)
“Wisdom may be rented...on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.” 2 likes
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