January, 2012: Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

“Those roles which, being neither those of Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the Recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama and opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business.”

(Book #21) Sharon was our first hostess of the new year [at what would be the first of five residences from which she would host over the years!] She provided us with a greeter who gave us parking permits for her neighborhood and we were all so thankful for him because Sharon’s space was on the third floor. Our hostess was experiencing a “no hot water problem” but she wouldn’t let it prevail. She served great cheese and hummus for appetizers, beef stew and salad for our main course and fruit crisp for dessert.

Most of us really enjoyed the book, some seemed surprised at liking it. Sharon thought it began terribly slowly, but picked up.  I had suggested Robertson Davies because I had seen his Tempest-Tost produced at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. Rosalie commented that the central character Dunstan Ramsay, seemed sadly lacking in character. Though we didn’t all agree with her assessment, we did agree that his character aptly fit the description of Fifth Business — a concept most of us found intriguing. While he didn’t seem to be a main player, he was necessary to move the action. Marcia read aloud the answer Leisel gave to the question “Who killed Boy Staunton?” and we felt we knew that the “woman he did not know” was Mrs. Dempster, but only guessed “the woman he knew” was his second wife.

Our big news for the night was that Mary has retired and will no longer have work as an excuse for missing book club. She shocked us all by telling us her age — to justify her retirement — we all thought she was younger!