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The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

G. K. Chesterton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jun 2007 Penguin Classics

Can you trust yourself when you don’t know who you are?

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’. In a park in London, secret policeman Gabriel Syme strikes up a conversation with an anarchist. Sworn to do his duty,

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 - its leader: a man named Sunday, whose true nature is worse than Syme could ever have imagined …


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (7 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141031255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141031255
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 11.4 x 18.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

" A powerful picture of the loneliness and bewilderment which each of us encounters in his single-handed struggle with the universe."
--C. S. Lewis --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The fantastically surreal classic from a master of suspense --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wild joy of being Thursday 1 May 2006
By Mr B
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Witty, wonderfully written and endlessly surprising, The Man who was Thursday is a novel which defies categories. It is hard to believe it was first published a whole century ago and that its protagonists scamper about in tails and top hats 'like black chimney pots'. On one level, it is a breathless thriller worthy of 007 - featuring a descent into an international terrorist organization headquarters, a baffling game of subterfuge between spies and a high speed chase through central London after an elephant and a hot air balloon. On another, it is a profound meditation on the nature of identity and the theological problem of evil. Entertainment and such weighty themes make strange bedfellows indeed, but here it is as if they tear off the sheets and indulge in a 100-page pillow fight so much fun is had by their combination. Chesterton acts as a winking master of revels throughout, orchestrating the chaos in his inimitable style while scattering bon mots and charming comparisons with abandon. One of my personal all time favourites, 'the wild joy of being Thursday' is an experience I will return to again and again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is what it seems 5 Dec 2010
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
On a lazy afternoon of witty repartee, Lucien (Lucifer?) Gregory reveals to the poet Gabriel (angel?) Syme, that he is an anarchist (anti-christ?). The pair go, quite literally, underground (Hades?) and double-bluff each other as to who is anarchist and who is policeman.

Is this allegory, satire or, as the title implies, a 'Nightmare' involving Lucien and Gabriel as 'the two fantastics'? To support the latter there is a prolonged 'nightmarish' chase section where the protagonists oten ask each other, 'When will I wake up?'

The main body of the 'crime' element of the novel involves a helter-skelter puruit of the anarchists across Edwardian England and northern France. This is coupled with the test of Gabriel and Lucien's 'my word is my bond' in a web of betrayal and deceit.

Mr Chesterton has a distinct style which is especially demanding at the start of the novel but it progresses to an easier ride as he concentrates on the narrative rather than descriptive. This novel is difficult to classify and open to multiple interpretations. Quite challenging. No sooner had I pigeon-holed the novel than it made a fool of me.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Thursday... 1 Mar 2006
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
For a book that's as short as this one, "The Man Who Was Thursday" is pretty packed.

G.K. Chesterton's classic novella tackles anarchy, social order, God, peace, war, religion, human nature, and a few dozen other weight concepts. And somehow he manages to mash it all together into a delightful satire, full of tongue-in-cheek commentary that is still relevant today.

As the book opens, Gabriel Symes is debating with a soapbox anarchist. The two men impress each other enough that the anarchist introduces Symes to a seven-man council of anarchists, all named after days of the week. In short order, they elect Symes their newest member -- Thursday.

But they don't know that he's also been recruited by an anti-anarchy organization. And soon Symes finds out that he's not the only person on the council who is not what he seems. There are other spies and double-agents, working for the same cause. But who -- and what -- is the jovial, powerful Mr. Sunday, the head of the organization?

Hot air balloons, elaborate disguises, duels and police chases -- Chesterton certainly knew how to keep this novel interesting. Though written almost a century ago, "The Man Who Was Thursday" still feels very fresh. That's partly because of Chesterton's cheery writing... and partly because it's such an intelligent book.

He doesn't avoid some timeless topics that make some people squirm. Humanity (good and bad), anarchy, religion and its place in human nature, and creation versus destruction all get tackled here -- disguised as a comic police investigation. And unlike most satires, it isn't dated; the topics are reflections of humanity and religion, so they're as relevant now as they were in 1908.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Edwardian London through a multi-coloured lens! 21 Oct 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Renowned for his Father Brown stories, GK Chesterton has created a small but perfectly formed classic nightmare-novel.Strange colours and landscapes form around a group of anarchists named after days of the week. The dreamlike quality is enriched by the familiar but almost otherwordly locations,london streets and parks, a winter's night by the Thames, frantic chases accross Northern France and the strange energy of the characters.
At once a realistic fairy tale or a fantastical account of a dream this short story is one to enjoy and immerse yourself in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatly amusing. 4 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As always with the Penguin English Library this is a beautiful book.
The story itself is a great romp through the streets of London and beyond. A laugh out loud read, I would highly recommend this to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sleepless 25 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover
Several years ago I bought this book purely for something different to read. Having started it late at night I read on oblivious to the time putting it down when I had finished it. Only then did I realise I had 20 minutes to get to work. It says it all, enjoy
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Thursday 16 Jan 2009
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
For a book that's as short as this one is, "The Man Who Was Thursday" is pretty packed.

G.K. Chesterton's classic novella tackles anarchy, social order, God, peace, war, religion, human nature, and a few dozen other weight concepts. And somehow he manages to mash it all together into a delightful satire, full of tongue-in-cheek commentary that is still relevant today.

As the book opens, Gabriel Symes is debating with a soapbox anarchist. The two men impress each other enough that the anarchist introduces Symes to a seven-man council of anarchists, all named after days of the week. In short order, they elect Symes their newest member -- Thursday.

But they don't know that he's also been recruited by an anti-anarchy organization. And soon Symes finds out that he's not the only person on the council who is not what he seems. There are other spies and double-agents, working for the same cause. But who -- and what -- is the jovial, powerful Mr. Sunday, the head of the organization?

Hot air balloons, elaborate disguises, duels and police chases -- Chesterton certainly knew how to keep this novel interesting. Though written almost a century ago, "The Man Who Was Thursday" still feels very fresh. That's partly because of Chesterton's cheery writing... and partly because it's such an intelligent book.

He doesn't avoid some timeless topics that make some people squirm. Humanity (good and bad), anarchy, religion and its place in human nature, and creation versus destruction all get tackled here -- disguised as a comic police investigation. And unlike most satires, it isn't dated; the topics are reflections of humanity and religion, so they're as relevant now as they were in 1908.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Was Thursday
Just finished it. A definite sense of four stars has descended upon me. Five would be farcical, I think, yet three still thirsty for greater credit. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jack
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and surreal (spoilers at the end)
A brief explanation of the plot:

Gabriel Syme is hired by a mysterious man in a pitch black room to work undercover for Scotland Yard, infiltrating a group of dangerous... Read more
Published 4 months ago by CoralFang
5.0 out of 5 stars In perfect conditions!
It was a gift for my husband, a PHD philosophy scholar and it was very much apreciated.
I would suggest a better packaging, but the book was in perfect conditions, on schedule... Read more
Published 5 months ago by DoNotPushMyButtons!
3.0 out of 5 stars Initially intriguing
Really unusual premise and start to the story - but did I miss the big philosophical point at the conclusion?
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars 6 hours I'll not get back
I laughed but for all the wrong reasons at this book. The funny bits were mainly accidental and the story was so thin that you could have held it up to the light and read through... Read more
Published 9 months ago by GP needing gadget
1.0 out of 5 stars The man to not bother with
Either I missed the point or it truly is a rambling surreal ramble with very little to admire in its style. or plot.
Published 11 months ago by Headintheclouds
3.0 out of 5 stars Absurd and surreal, but quite good fun
Fascinating and surreal, there is no doubt that this novel is well written. Despite being penned long enough ago to be considered a classic, it is perfectly readable and has a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by BookWorm
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm
Chesterton describes this book as 'a very melodramatic sort of moonshine' in a postscript at the back of my edition and I have to agree. Read more
Published 12 months ago by E. Pirie
3.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be better known
This book is crazy but greatly enjoyable. Read with all your wits about you. Londoners will enjoy for the scene with an elephant being ridden out of the zoo by the epitome of pure... Read more
Published 12 months ago by thereader33
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointed
Was led to believe that I would have many burst out loud laughing moments, but sadly I did not. Interesting as the story unfolded, but slow and somewhat dated.
Published 12 months ago by J. Stretton
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