So, sometimes I judge books by their cover- only in the positive sense though- I may see a cover I really like and buy the book regardless of it’s content. I really like the recent Penguin English Library editions that came out a couple of years ago. I don’t have many, but I do have this edition of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday. I finally got round to reading it. Synopsis and review after the jump.
In a park in London, secret policeman Gabriel Syme strikes up a conversation with an anarchist. Sworn to do his duty, Syme uses his new acquaintance to go undercover in Europe's Central Anarchist Council and infiltrate their deadly mission, even managing to have himself voted to the position of 'Thursday'. When Syme discovers another undercover policeman on the Council, however, he starts to question his role in their operations. And as a desperate chase across Europe begins, his confusion grows, as well as his confidence in his ability to outwit his enemies. But he has still to face the greatest terror that the Council has: a man named Sunday, whose true nature is worse than Syme could ever have imagined...
The novel reads quite easily, there are several characters which Chesterton does not really describe in intricate detail, so it took me a while to differentiate between them. The novel is funny at times, but not overly that it starts to mock itself- it is after all a book about anarchists plotting to murder heads of state. I enjoyed the twists of what was happening, though was quicker to come to the conclusion of the circumstances regarding the characters’ acquaintance with each other, Something which took the main characters a bit longer to discover, perhaps not because of their lack of intelligence, because they are all very smart, but rather for the sake of prolonging the story. The allegory of anarchist vs. law and rich vs. poor is extremely intriguing, as well as the references to the bible. The characters chase one another around Europe in a well-written piece with lush descriptions of the people and places they encounter. Chesterton has several quotes in the novel that I could not help but find incredible. “The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists…”(117) This is an example of the wonderful prose Chesterton fills the story with. The novel’s ending is quite strange though and while the subtitle already hints at it, it is still a bit of a surprise. It is an enjoyable read and while a bit outdated in some aspects, still resonates in others.
You can buy The Man Who Was Thursday here