Title: The Man Who Was Thursday
Author: G. K. Chesterton
My Rating: 2/5
One of my favorite features of Goodreads is that for each book, the site shows you how your friends have ranked it. That feature is fabulous if you’re debating whether to pick up a new book. But in cases like this, it makes reviewing a book a terrible prospect.
For The Man Who Was Thursday, I see that two friends have reviewed Chesterton’s novel. Both of my friends gave it five stars, rating it as amazing, a book they’d share with anyone. That’s terrifying, because I am giving the book a two-star rating.
Quite frankly, I don’t understand the appeal. This is now the second Chesterton novel I’ve read, and with both I’ve had the same reaction at the book’s end — “huh?”
Thursday is a book full of whimsical fancy, as characters often made me laugh out loud at their sheer silliness. The main character, Gabriel Syme, is a poet, policeman, and anarchist at various times throughout the book, but in every scene he is confused and confusing.
Crucial to understanding this story is the book’s subtitle, “A Nightmare.” Chesterton is not so much writing reality as it is, but as it could be in a dream. So some of the confusion is of the sort you have come to expect in your dreams, but much of my own personal confusion owes to a sense of purposelessness in the story. I don’t know why Chesterton wrote this book, and I don’t understand why his characters act.
As for plot, Syme and his compatriots rush through this book’s pages in their effort to take down Sunday, the fanatical, crazed leader of the anarchist movement in London. There are secret meetings, hot-air-balloon chases, and intrigue in every chapter. I can’t share much of the storyline without giving away the myriad of twists and turns Chesterton invents.
Chesterton is nothing if not creative, and his fiction reflects his jubilant ingenuity. I only wish I understood his genius, when it comes to fiction. Several friends and family praise Chesterton’s novels, but the stories just don’t click for me. Prior to writing this review, I read a dozen other reviews of the book, and I’ve read Chesterton’s own words on the book. Sadly, even after that, I can’t praise this book. I didn’t particularly enjoy or appreciate Thursday, so I can’t in good faith recommend it to others.
Because I know many people disagree with me on this book, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me an email with your own defense (and explanation) of this book. I welcome your correction.