Picks and Pans Review: The Rebel Angels

updated 01/25/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/25/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Robertson Davies

At a university in Toronto, a beautiful scholar preparing a thesis on Rabelais becomes the focus of adoration for three male faculty members. These men, in addition to teaching, have been named in the will of a wealthy man to oversee his collection of art and manuscripts. There is also an alcoholic, corrupt monk who moves into the scholar's office; he's the kind of character who can say: "A good meal should be a performance; the Edwardians understood that. Their meals were a splendid form of theater, like a play by Pinero, with skillful preparation, expectation, dénouement and satisfactory ending. The well-made play: the well-made meal. Drama one can eat." Amid such erudition, however, there are inevitably greed, ambition and lust. What at first seems a satire of academe turns into a tale of sexual perversion and murder. Davies, an English professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, is one of the most delightful writers on this continent. Here, as in such previous novels as Fifth Business and World of Wonders, the English language is celebrated in a fireworks display of lively ideas, bawdy humor and sustained brilliance. (Viking, $13.95)

From Our Partners