Barbara's Random Thoughts

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton

This isn't as put-together as I'd like it to be, but it's what I've got, and things are gonna get pretty busy for me these next couple of weeks. So here you go.

First book of the year. I started it in Oxford, because it seemed like a good one to read there (sadly, I never got to read any of it while sitting in The Eagle and Child), and I finished it on the train to Scotland...just minutes before our train pulled into Glasgow. I love it when timing works out like that.

The story begins with Gabriel Syme, a "philosophical policeman" who is hunting anarchists, being invited to attend a secret meeting with the promise of it being an entertaining evening. By the end of the meeting, he has been elected to the General Council of the Anarchists of Europe. No, really.

The Council is plotting to destroy the world, or wreak as much havoc as they can along the way. Each member takes the name of a day of the week--the Council is headed by the mysterious and intimidating Sunday, and Syme replaces the recently-deceased Thursday. The bulk of the book follows Syme as he chases and is chased by the other anarchists and finally Sunday himself.

Though the book never seems to take itself seriously--mistaken identities, rather un-anarchic anarchists, a very comic duel, a lot of madcap rushing about the French countryside, and a chase scene which features several hansom cabs chasing a man riding an elephant--in the end, the story prompted some rather deep thought for me about the nature of God and my perception of him. One of my favorite passages:

"Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front--"

So, nothing is as it seems. It's that whole literary theme of appearance vs. reality that so often fascinates me. But here, for me, the theme got tied into man's perception of God vs. who he really is. And that was an interesting idea to kick around in my head for a bit.

As far as the plot went, I kinda did see the unmasking and suddenly-revealed identities coming, but I felt like the point of the book wasn't really to surprise in that arena. It surprised me in leaving me with questions I hadn't anticipated but greatly enjoyed mulling over.

More to come...three more already-read books to write about...

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| posted by Barbara | 9:03 AM