Monday, August 29, 2005

Book No. 25: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I'd heard quite a bit about this book over the years, and rightfully so. It's witty as hell, full of surprising twists and turns, and ultimately a mystery in the medieval sense of the word.

In short: Gabriel Syme, a poet who is also a policeman, infiltrates the Central European Council of Anarchists (didn't I mention it's a witty novel?) as Thursday, one of seven leaders code-named by the days of the week. The head of the council is Sunday, an immense man who terrifies the others. One by one, Syme discovers that none of the other men are who they seem to be, and, in the end, chases Sunday straight out of the spy novel of the first 80% of the book into pure allegorical fantasy writing.

Although I believe that Chesterton was on the opposite end of the political spectrum from my own sympathies (which, given the century between us, means squat), The Man Who Was Thursday has an ambiguous moral that appeals to and intrigues me. Smarter men than I have delved into the meanings with (one supposes) more preparation than I have had, so I'm just going to stick with the simple note that I liked it and am glad I've read it. I note that most of the recommendations for this book on the web appear to be from sci-fi and Catholic readers; however, I stand as proof that the book (well, novella, really) also appeals to liberal, highfalutin'-lit-loving humanists.


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