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Leaven of Malice

(The Salterton Trilogy #2)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,431 ratings  ·  80 reviews
following announcement appeared in the Salterton Evening Bellman: "Professor and Mrs. Walter Vambrace are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Pearl Veronica, to Solomon Bridgetower, Esq., son of..."Although the malice that prompted the insertion of this false engagement notice was aimed at three people only-Solly Bridgetower, a junior instructor in ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 1st 1980 by Penguin Canada (first published 1954)
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Karen Technically no, since they are sort of more like linked stories, in which each volume informs the next only peripherally. But I would recommend…moreTechnically no, since they are sort of more like linked stories, in which each volume informs the next only peripherally. But I would recommend reading them in order, as some things will make more sense that way :)(less)

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W.D. Clarke
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Leaven of Malice, the second installment of Davies' first ("the Salterton trilogy") of four series of interlinked novels, is a comedy of errors that is trying to do a couple of things to set it apart from the rest of the polite, faux-Edwardian crowd. First, it is attempting to present mid-20C Canadian "culture" to the world (once the outer world has paid attention, the Canadian cliché goes, so too can Canadians themselves, who delight in nothing so much as draping a native cultural product in ...more
Thomas Edmund
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I confess when I voted for this option in book club, I thought the title indicated something far more dark a sinister. Pleasantly surprising however, was that Leaven presents a funny take on community gossip and interactions, as once both biting and heart-warming. The book was a lot of fun, because it was a club book I dived straight into it (its technically the 2nd book in a trilogy) but I imagine it would be even better having read the 1st.
Susan's Reviews
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
My favourite Robertson Davies novel: interesting characters and explorations of all types of themes: truth and fantasy being two of the themes I remembered from so long ago!
Lise Petrauskas
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
Highly enjoyable! A friend's review says it's a great book about nothing at all, and that's pretty accurate. How does Davies pull it off? This might be even better than Tempest-Tost, the first book in the trilogy. It is more contained and tight, at least, like some kind of fancy decorative knot that you realize is made up of one piece of cord. He's doing nothing fancy or genre bending, but the damn thing is magic. (And NOT magical realism, just really really got novel writing.)
I can't believe that a book about practically nothing can be so entertaining. I think I loved every character no matter how ridiculous, which might owe something to the fact that I think I've met people just like all the ones in this book. It is a story filled with the hypocrites, prejudices and gossip of a small town and how could you not love the happy ending.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very much enjoying this trilogy. Davies is a master at setting up humorous situations, unless he is creating poignant and moving scenes. This is an author who loves and cares about his characters ( much like Anthony Trollope, to whom he is compared), and so the reader cares about them too. This author is funny and wise, a perfect combination. It is also one of the best plots I’ve read in ages.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another charming installment in the Salterton Trilogy. Davies managed to surprise me with his bawdiness and bleakness. His settings and characters seem at first glance so much like Mayberry or Leave it to Beaver, but he takes it to some pretty dark places, like the suicide attempt in Tempest-Tost or the seduction scene in this one.

The characters are so lifelike in their neuroses to me, like Gloster Ridley, who suffers from a peculiar strain of social anxiety that makes him embarrassed to eat in
Aaron Arnold
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2016
The more of Davies' novels you read, the more absurdly pleasant his general worldview becomes, like a landscape painting where the harmony and attraction of each detail increases the more of the vista you see. As you finish each one it becomes almost aggravating that you can't live in his world: a place of enormous good humor, full of interest and mischief, where every evil has been abolished, vices are merely virtues imperfectly expressed, conflicts stem from lapses in authenticity rather than ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Of all the Robertson Davies novels, Leaven of Malice is my absolute favourite, which is to say, Leaven is my favourite novel by my shortlist of favourite novelists. Tackling a review of this book makes me nervous, as though I won't do it justice.

Stripped to its bones, the story centres around a prank that causes unintended consequences for the residents of a small university town. I have read this novel multiple times and still appreciate anew how Davies is able to create a town's worth of
Danielfarlow Farlow
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most delightful books I've EVER read. If you are any of: a pseudo-intellectual, journalist, paper reader, writer, small town person, lover of love, lover of wit, lover of autumn--hell, even a rom-com fan-- I can go on on and on about the many people who would love this book, too, then read it now!!

This book will cure all that ails you! It's perspective is a wonderful antidote to modern life which has sought out, ransacked, and commodified every possible human pleasure except
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: fiction, funny, 2008
Just finished listening to this one on tape. I had heard about this author before, but I wasn't familiar with any of his books until I got this one from the library. It didn't disappoint!

Someone decides to insert a false engagement notice in the newspaper, announcing the upcoming wedding between Pearl Vambrace and Professor Solomon Bridgetower on November 31. The newspaper runs the announcement and then finds itself in the middle of an uproar. The plot contains elements of Romeo and Juliet, with
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I thought Tempest Tost was amusing. Leaven of Malice was hilarious!
Robyn Roscoe
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I bought the Salterton Trilogy as a set on my Kindle, so it was a natural flow in to book two once Tempest-Tost was done. I confess that I might not have read this one in school (although I must have passed the tests on it), as the story was completely new to me. I was surprised that a story with fairly adult themes (suggestions of incest and adultery, alongside the quaint notions of engagement announcements) was part of our school curriculum; this story seemed quite advanced for our parochial ...more
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I do wish I hadn't waited so long to read the first trilogy by Davies. I enjoyed his other, later, novels so much that I set aside the Salterton trio "for a rainy day." That gloomy "day" has arrived but Davies, in this series, is not the antidote I hoped. I find something mean and small and smug in Robertson's view of this society he has both created and commented on. If I recall correctly, if time hasn't blunted or blurred my recall, his later novels are generous and kind and open to ...more
Alan Swift
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Davies is an elegant writer whose assured handling of characters is a joy to behold. He understands the frailties of people so well and plays them out in his wonderfully imagined world. Leaven of Malice is a simple story beautifully told with a cast of individuals who all have their tale to tell. There is great wit throughout the book but also much wisdom about human nature. A lovely classic comedy. It has the feel of a 50s movie.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Familiar and new Salterton characters display the variety of human weakness and strength of character after a mischievous but harmless public prank is played on a young man and woman. Eventually equilibrium is restored, lessons are learned and for some, the experience provides a route to either growth or self realisation.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was just as fun as the first in the series. The characters are likable, the plot is interesting, there are some twists to keep you guessing, and the end is delightful. Can't wait to read the third book.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hilarious--wonderful book!
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.
Mark Vayngrib
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
a bit boring but every few pages there's a breath of fresh ass...I mean a breast of fresh air...a quotable turn of phrase is what I mean
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Even better than Tempest-Tost, the first in the series.
David Getz
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Delightful and light.
Fern Adams
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Slightly predictable yet utterly brilliant!
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read, with plenty of chuckles.
Very clever writing style. Very funny.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
(Dug review out of the depths of LiveJournal.)

The ending is too expected to follow Tempest-Tost well. Still funny and sometimes note perfect, but then the predictability strikes.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This wasn't my favorite of Robertson Davies' took a while to get moving and I was completely indifferent about continuing with it until around page ninety when he described Pearl's private pleasurefest. That, my friend, was hilarious.

There were other funny parts of the book to follow. The main plot line was a bit incomprehensible to me since the values that drove characters seemed rather far-fetched, but overall, things became entertaining.

As always, Robertson has some sharp and often
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This second in Davies' trilogy set in Salterton Ontario uses his newspaper background as a foundation. We meet Gloster Ridley, the editor of the Salterton Evening Bellman, a moment before the roof falls in on him. He is hoping that he will be given an honorary doctorate for the assistance and advice he has given Waverley University in founding a journalism department and he is trying to find a way to force the former editor and current essay writer Mr. Shilitoe to finally retire. A false ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reads
My renewed love for Davies is confirmed in this, the second volume of the Salterton trilogy. I find Davies' approach to series totally unique, as he creates a new story in the same setting, featuring "secondary" characters, proving that character is undoubtedly a pillar of fiction. We met the Vambraces and Solly Bridgetower in the opening volume, Tempest Tost, as they were all involved with the titular play. This story takes place nearly 3 years after those events, and finds Solly and Pearl, who ...more
Love the writing in the book, as I did the first in this trilogy. The characters are finely drawn, with humour and understanding.

I'm going to gripe about the introduction to all three books, however. I found quite a few inaccuracies with regard to the first book. Now, having read the second, there are a couple others I noted. Perhaps it had been quite some time between when Margaret MacMillan read the book and wrote the introduction. At any rate, nowhere in the book can I find Professor Vambrace
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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 Salterton Trilogy (3 books)
  • Tempest-Tost (Salterton Trilogy, #1)
  • A Mixture of Frailties (Salterton Trilogy, #3)
“But in every church there are people who, for reasons which seem sufficient to them, do not approve of their pastor and seek to harry him and bully him into some condition pleasing to themselves. The democracy which the Reformation brought into the Christian Church rages in their bosoms like a fire; they would deny that they regard their clergyman as their spiritual hired hand, whom they boss and oversee for his own good, but that is certainly the impression they give to observers.” 3 likes
“Life, as he conceived of it, was a long decline from a glorious past, and if a reader approaches a newspaper in that spirit, he can find much to confirm him in his belief, particularly if he has never examined any short period of the past in day-to-day detail.” 2 likes
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