Author: GK Chesterton [You didn't think I could leave him out of this, did you?]
Year I read it: 2011
One sentence summary: The odd and enthusiastic Innocent Smith arrives at a London boarding house full of disillusioned modernists; but after the stir he causes in the cause to improve his fellow tenants, he is arrested and charged with burglary, polygamy, and attempted murder, turning the boarding house into the trial of Innocent.
Interesting fact: Chesterton was friends and philosophical adversaries with George Bernard Shaw, author of Pygmalion.
Three reasons to read it:
- Chesterton is all about paradox - and this book is full of them! I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say that Innocent is himself a paradox.
- If you need a reminder of the delight of the little things, this would be a great book to read. There are so many moments we moderns/post-moderns take for granted that the author recognizes and celebrates.
- This novel is witty and funny and perfectly Chesterton. [Don't tell anyone, but I actually preferred this to Man Who Was Thursday]
One reason you maybe shouldn't:
- It is very obviously and intentionally a parable.
“I don't deny," he said, "that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.”
“This man's spiritual power has been precisely this, that he has distinguished between custom and creed. He has broken the conventions, but he has kept the commandments.”
“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.”
“I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him–only to bring him to life.”