‘The Cunning Man’ takes in Anglo Catholicism, sin, temptation, holistic medicine, friendship, love, betrayal, murder, and something of what it means to be Canadian. It’s a heady mix which Davies pulls off in an extraordinary way. He keeps me reading where a lesser writer would not, from the first sentence; “Should I have taken the false teeth?” to his last All of that in reply to a wrong number for the Odeon, and it’s meant to be as self conscious as it sounds. Davies trick is balancing the ridiculous with the heavy. ‘The Cunning Man’ as well as being a meditation on personal philosophy also has a sort of murder mystery (was it a murder?) running through it whilst being a sort of mixed up biography of Jon Hullah the cunning man of the title.
“No, this is the Great Theatre of Life. Admission is free but the taxation is mortal. You come when you can, and leave when you must. The show is continuous. Good-night.”
Pulling in under Edinburgh castle reading Davies felt somehow appropriate, I’m sure he would have delighted in it (and probably did, I realise I could do a lot more actual research on Davies) I’m also sure that J K Rowling is a fan. There’s something in the way they both put together names for characters and throw in little things that send me chasing a reference (or leave me feeling a bit smug because I already understand the allusion) that I love about both writers and which feels like an homage in Rowling. Like Rowling, Davies books are very re readable – the devil’s in the detail, so each reading will reveal something new.