Thursday, 25 February 2010

Cannonball Read 12: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I am aware I have not posted in a rather long time. The reasons are not particularly interesting. I do have several reviews in note-form scattered around the place that I've neglected to type up. I was inspired the other day, however, as I conversed with a friend. He told me that he enjoyed reading my reviews and noticed I hadn't updated in a while. Then he said "Shame on you". Shame? SHAME? So I am here now, head lowered, bottom lip quivering, hoping that The Internet can forgive me. Also, I would like to dedicate this angry little review to you, B.V. Keep it Scandinavian, homie.

There are two basic points I would like to convey in the following review. The first is that G.K Chesterton is a fantastic writer. The second is that I hated this book. It's a deep, seething and maniacal hatred that I will carry to my grave.

The Man Who Was Thursday begins as a spy novel set in turn-of-the-century London. Gabriel Syme, a member of a secret anti-anarchist task force, infiltrates the Central Council of Anarchists with the intention of thwarting their plans of destruction and general mayhem.(Chesterton's anarchists would more accurately be described as nihilists) Consisting of seven men, each member of the council is named after a day of the week. Syme is elected as Thursday and attends his first meeting where he develops a bizarre admiration - as well as fear - of the council's leader, Sunday.

Though it's opening is straightforward and strongly written the novel becomes increasingly predictable and repetitive as it progresses. Midway through the reader is left to speculate if Chesterton has, in fact, written a farce. The reader hangs on, expecting there will be a payoff. Spoiler alert: there is not. The conclusion is a baffling mess of pretentious religious symbolism.

The novel was recommended to me by a friend who asserted that, despite his issues with the narrative, the writing was strong enough to carry him through. Well, the writing carried me through the first half. Frustration, blind rage and a three hour layover in Oslo carried me through the second.

So, as it may have already been made obvious, The Man That Was Thursday left a bad taste in my mouth. Despite my blatant hatred of the book, however, I would be interested in reading more of Chesterton's work. Someday. Maybe.