You know how I'm often, perhaps self-righteously, claiming that my favorite authors are women of color? Well, I have to admit that there are a few white male authors in my heart, too. And you can't get much whiter than white Canadian Robertson Davies, eh? I've read, with affection, his three completed trilogies at least twice apiece, but I hadn't yet gotten around to rereading the first two of what Wikipedia surmises would have been called the Toronto Trilogy. The bad news is that I'm now pretty sure that Murther & Walking Spirits is my least favorite of Davies' novels.
It's told from the point of view of a recent ghost who spends most of the book reviewing his ancestors lives in a sort of film festival. Some of the forbears are more interesting than others, shall we say, but the real problem is Davies' interrupting of the action with long philosophical passages. Plus you can't tell whether it's Davies or the protagonist who regards women with disdain. I suspect it's the former, which makes me sad. Parts of the book are compelling, and I probably will soon reread it's sequel, The Cunning Man, which I remember liking quite a bit.
Bonus feature: Mr. Davies has quite a vocabulary, and ain't shy about showing it off. If you're planning to take your GRE or lost your Word-of-the-Day calendar, this book would be good for you.
I also like some of this observations, such as
It was the old error of management: take a man out of a job he does well, and make him a boss, for which he has little liking or ability. p.31
Horse-racing, however, is for men whose knowledge and subtlety is of a different order from that of a successful tradesman, and Samuel has the tendency of wealthy men to think that he knows other men's trades as well as he knows his own. p.130
There is no such thing as a person who is "nobody very much." Everybody is an agonist in one of Fate's time-worm games on earth, and winning or losing is not what it seems to be in the judgement of others, but as judged by the player himself. p.132
The Green Man, like virtually all inns, hotels, motels, lodging-houses and places of their kind, has no idea that anybody reads in bed. Bed, to the innkeeping trade, is a place for fornication or for sleep. This is why people like Brochwel develop a contortionist's talent that enables them to read in extraordinary positions, in light which, by the time it reaches the page, is not more than twenty-five watts in strength. p.316