Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Ok, I just wrapped up The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. I had absolutely no clue what the book was about when I started except for the blurb on the back, but a friend highly recommended it. The book reads as I expect a book published in 1908 to, which is in what I consider the typical style for a book from the early twentieth century. I actually quite enjoy the style for an adventuresome novel because it reminds me of other classic adventures. So, it started out with a plus from me for reminding me of books I read long, long ago, but the whole book takes a twist near the end.

The book is admittedly quite short, so you really don't have to worry about wasting too much time on it. The story starts out with a member of Scotland Yard planting himself in the core of an anarchists group as a spy. Unfortunately, I really can't tell you much more because it would ruin some of the excitement. I can tell you the style in which it plays out though. The book moves very quickly covering only a few days, but the pace was quick enough that I didn't even notice how far along in the book I was until I picked it back up after a night of reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the spy escapades that take place all the way through the first hundred pages or so, but after that the book got a bit strange.

Let me just say that I had figured out the twist behind the characters very early on, but I did not even begin to expect the reason behind them. I don't think anyone could expect what comes at the end because it is so surreal when compared to the rest of the story. The reason is quite simply to get the author's point across, which was to poke fun at the sort of pessimism of his time by emulating it through his ending. That may sound like a spoiler, but it truly tells you nothing until you have finished the work and start to think about all the possibilities. I think it is safe to conclude that the book is somewhat religious in theme, but that only serves to enhance other parts of the story. While I do like both sections of the book, I must say that they read as almost two completely separate stories. I was left asking myself if this was even the same writer at times, but I still have to recommend the book.

I can't recommend it quite as highly as it was recommended to me, but it definitely falls into my good book category. It is most definitely above average, and I would place it above most modern spy stories simply for its writing. It's a quick read, so I don't see any reason to avoid it. However, it may evoke some thinking afterwards (not as much as other books, but still some), so be prepared.


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