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  • ISBN10: 0140183884
  • ISBN13: 9780140183887
  • Paperback
  • 192 pages
  • Penguin Classics

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare
by G.K. Chesterton

Reviewed by Chinsmith

Rating: 4 out of 5

  • Posted 14 years ago
  • Viewed 10518 times, 3 comments
  • Average user rating: (4/5)

A spy thriller which turns into a magic realist existential fable. No, wait, come back..!

The Man Who Was Thursday is one of those books, like The Borribles or The Name of the Rose, that you're vaguely aware of, you think might be cool, but you end up never getting around to reading because there just doesn't seem to be A Way In. It's not like you'll have your feet up in front of Emmerdale and something makes you go 'Ah, that reminds me - I've always wanted to read The Man Who Was Thursday. I'll order it off Amazon now.'

Which is a shame, because it's a very special book.Like PG Wodehouse or Elmore Leonard, GK Chesterton just has a wonderful, fun way with a sentence. He's the kind of guy who could write six paragraphs about European farm subsidies and make you come away wanting to dance the tango in your living room. But the action here is far from dull. TMWWT* is about a clever young man who infiltrates a secret society of deadly anarchists - each named after a day of the week. Can our hero keep his head, his identity and his life in the face of Europe's most grotesque and sinister murderers?

All of which is amazing. But it's not really what TMWWT is about. The ruse leads the hero through a maze-like plot which is pretty much entirely composed of twists. You'll be on the edge of your seat as he tracks down each member of the gang and tackles their unique brand of evil head-on. But somewhere around the middle of this short novel, you spot a pattern. A very large pattern that makes the plot as stylised as the dialogue. A plot which is insane, infuriating and brilliant, and which will have you smiling like a Cheshire Cat as you turn each page. If I gave it away here I'd be the world's biggest bastard, but it's fair to say that it's unique in the world of literature. To put it bluntly, Chesterton has written a book about the pursuit of God.

There's something enticingly movie-like about the novel, what with all the chases around London, special effects (including a memorable elephant), sword fights, dreamscape countryside and constant mortal peril. But like all that's good about Chesterton, it also has a devil-may-care, winsome, romantic streak a mile wide. If it was going to be a film, it should have been directed by Hitchcock, starring a Princess Bride-era Cary Elwes, and Orson Welles. And it would be a classic.

So go on - order The Man Who Was Thursday off Amazon right now!

*It's somehow very appropriate that this looks like TMNT. Go figure...

Creative Commons License, some rights reserved


cedarwaxwing says:

Great review - I'll certainly check it out.

#1 Posted 14 years ago

danchamp says:

It's also available at Project Gutenburg - see the link in the sidebar.

#2 Posted 14 years ago

Sundance says:

You've got me interested! I'll add it to my list. Thanks.

#3 Posted 13 years ago

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