I have no idea what to say about this book. This is the first thing by Chesterton I’ve read, and I can’t tell if I’m overthinking it, or if it’s much smarter than I am. I’m not convinced that it was worth my time, or not worth my time. Ultimately, I’ll probably forget this book and everything in it within a few months. Give it a year, and likely this review will be all that remains of my memory. It’s not that the book was badly written or anything, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around it, so it’s all going to leak away.
A poet-turned-policeman named Syme gets mixed up with an organization of anarchists (how’s that for an oxymoron?). He becomes one of the seven members of the Council. Each council member is named after one of the days of the week. Syme is Thursday. The leader is Sunday. Syme finds that he is not the only policeman on the force, and with his fellows spies, he goes on this wild and completely unbelievable adventure that seemed to be an early 20th century version of a bad car chase movie (Wheels of Terror, anyone?). However, the ludicrousness of this whole thing is so unbelievable, so unreal, that it ceases to be simply a chase scene, and turns into something almost surreal. By the end, there’s suddenly a lot of Christian creationism symbolism and philosophy, not to mention a flurry of nonsensical, whimsical notes never explained…
I don’t get it. At least, I don’t think I get it. I’m sure there’s a point, but either it’s completely escaping me or I’m looking too closely, like staring at an impressionist painting from only inches away. My copy of this book had an extract from an article written by Chesterton, and he said (totally paraphrased here) that people tend not to understand this book because they forget about the subtitle. The book’s full title is The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. Okay, so if I look at it that way, I can easily see this as a slightly surreal sketch of a nightmare. There was a lot of nightmarish qualities about it in the chases, in the big party at the end, in the shifting of Sunday’s face, in the random notes, in all the symbolism. But somehow, I doubt Chesterton wrote a simple dream-thriller here. I feel like there must be more, and so I keep searching.
I won’t say this is a bad book, but I can’t say it’s a good book, either. I think I’m going to have to be contented with a halfway in-between, at least until I have the opportunity to discuss the book with someone a lot smarter than me, or who at least has a lot more source material! One of my book clubs is meeting to discuss this at the beginning of May, I found out, so hopefully the moderator will be able to shed some light on the deeper meaning here. My apologies for the mediocre review in the meantime.