Robertson Davies is the well-known Canadian author of many works of fiction. His novels are now timeless classics studied in university and college literature courses across the world. The Manticore is the middle book in "The Deptford Trilogy," a series begun in Fifth Business and ending in World of Wonders. It traces the power one small act can have on generations of people - in this case a snowball thrown by a boy.
The Manticore focuses on David Staunton, son of the wealthy and influential Boy Staunton. It is his fatherís recent death under strange circumstances that causes David to flee from his home in Canada to Zurich. There he seeks out Jungian analyst
Dr. Johanna von Haller. The novel becomes the story of Davidís progress through psychoanalysis as he looks at his life and the role others have had in it. He examines the effects of his cold and domineering father, weak, docile mother and calculating sister, among others, on the man he has become- the non-sexual, alcoholic, famous lawyer for the defense. David forces himself to look at his past, the exact opposite
of his father, who chose to ignore and rewrite his own history. As Davidís process unfolds, the reader is treated to in-depth looks into both the Jungian analysis process and the story of Davidís growth within it.
The strength of The Manticore lies in its ability to examine its characters as individuals and as influences on Davidís world. They range from the seemingly stereotypical
- distant father, withdrawn (then deceased) mother, and professor as father figure
- to surprisingly delightful ones, such as the student genealogist Pledger-Brown and the appearance of the strong female figure of Liesl
at the end.
The ending is unexpected and may seem disconnected. Those readers not familiar with the first book in the trilogy will be surprised by the change of atmosphere and style. While the book can be read as a piece of literature in itself, it will become much more understandable and powerful when read in order as part of the trilogy.