Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton

This was a fascinating read. Chesterton’s prose is clear and poignant making the story a mostly easy read if you forgive the century old English expressions and such. The novel is rich in symbolism about man’s perception of free will, Nature, and the ultimate question of God. It’s a novel that one thinks about long after reading it because it elucidates the various mysteries of both the human condition and the metaphysics of the universe. Few pieces of fiction have been able to implant in me such a sense of wonder and mystery, as The Man Who Was Thursday. I very much recommend this book.

Appearances rather than realities seem to be the point of much of the imagery in the book. I would go on further but I want to give a spoiler warning. If you are interested in reading this book, don’t read any further.

The novel is an inverted mystery novel in which villains are revealed as being actually good people, while the real mystery is the enigmatic man named Sunday, the head of the Anarchist Council. Syme, the main character, manipulates his way into the leading Anarchist Council, to undermine its efforts since he is a police officer. Through the book he makes quite a few interesting discoveries about the other members of the Council and finally goes on a quest to figure out the both sublime and bestial Sunday.

The final chapters of the book are my favorite, although this is not to say that the whole book isn’t good. Chesterton does a good job of cultivating the sense of adventure throughout the novel but the ending chapters are best because they elucidate the meaning behind much of the symbolism in the story. Sunday represents what Nature is separated from the revelation of God. The backside of Sunday represents the part of Nature that is seen apart from revelation. Syme even comments that in this world we’ve only seen the backside of things when in the next we will see things face to face, or something to that effect.

Someday I would definitely consider buying this book and reading it more thoroughly for symbolism since I probably didn’t catch everything. If I ever was to write a novel with a strong biblical allegory, I’d definitely look to The Man Who Was Thursday as my inspiration.

No comments: