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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch entertainment
Having claim to be the first forensic detective novel, Twain has produced what could be considered as a classic 19th century mystery novel; a switch at birth, a murder, suspicious foreigners and a court case. However, our hero, David "Pudd'nhead" Wilson, seeking to redeem himself in the eyes of the community, uses a pioneering form of fingerprinting to solve the mystery...
Published on 18 July 2006 by GRBD

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deceiving Appearances and Labels Have Profound Consequences!
Do others ever misjudge you? Did you, as a result, ever have a nickname you didn't like? Did you appreciate that experience? How did you overcome it?
What if you had been switched in the baby nursery at the hospital for another child? How might your life have been different?
These are the kinds of thoughts that will occur to you as you read Pudd'nhead...
Published on 28 Jun. 2004 by Donald Mitchell


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch entertainment, 18 July 2006
Having claim to be the first forensic detective novel, Twain has produced what could be considered as a classic 19th century mystery novel; a switch at birth, a murder, suspicious foreigners and a court case. However, our hero, David "Pudd'nhead" Wilson, seeking to redeem himself in the eyes of the community, uses a pioneering form of fingerprinting to solve the mystery. Typically witty, it also talks openly of the evils of slavery.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deceiving Appearances and Labels Have Profound Consequences!, 28 Jun. 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Do others ever misjudge you? Did you, as a result, ever have a nickname you didn't like? Did you appreciate that experience? How did you overcome it?
What if you had been switched in the baby nursery at the hospital for another child? How might your life have been different?
These are the kinds of thoughts that will occur to you as you read Pudd'nhead Wilson.
I was attracted to the story after reading about its genesis in the new illustrated biography of Mark Twain.
Pudd'nhead Wilson is a tragic story about the consequences of two children being switched at birth in the slave-holding society of the American South. Those who admire the eloquent portrayal of common humanity among African-Americans and whites in Huckleberry Finn will find more examples of this point to delight them in Pudd'nhead Wilson.
Pudd'nhead Wilson was a novel that gave Mark Twain a great many problems. The book started as a short story about Italian Siamese twins with a farcical character, as the drunken twin caused the Prohibitionist one to get into trouble with his woolly headed sweetheart. As Twain turned the story into a novel, the most important characters began to disappear in favor of new characters. Stymied, Twain realized that he had written two stories in one novel. He then excised the original of the two stories in favor of the tragedy, while leaving many satirical and ironic characteristics. Part of this switch no doubt related to Twain's growing pessimism as he grew older and to the personal tragedies and financial difficulties dogged his efforts and life.
Perhaps it is this deep plot difficulty that caused Twain to leave the novel with two rather large flaws, which vastly reduce its effectiveness. I'm sure you'll spot them, so I won't mention the problems further.
Pudd'nhead Wilson has many brilliant sections that strikingly portray how the concepts and realities of slavery corrupted both African-Americans and slave-holders.
But the story is much broader than that. Pudd'nhead (a derogatory term somewhat like "featherhead") Wilson is thought to be a fool by the townspeople because of something he said about a dog when he first came to town. Because of that perception, his legal career is delayed by 20 years . . . even though he is actually quite bright. The story in places reminds me of Shakespeare's many comedies and tragedies about misperceptions being harmful to all concerned.
Although you will not think this is one of Mark Twain's best books, it is one that will encourage you to have many valuable thoughts about questioning labels and assumptions that we apply to one another. For example, if someone is not very quick to grasp certain widely-accepted points, we may feel the person is stupid. The person may actually be able to grasp many nuances that make the situation ambiguous, and be the opposite of stupid. Or someone who is slow in one way may be a positive genius in other ways. Yet a label may be attached that is the opposite.
Keep an open mind, and observe vastly more about what is going on . . . and be able to create vastly better results!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contrived, Curtailed and Quaint. But Delightful., 20 July 2005
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Peter Reeve (Thousand Oaks, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This was my third Twain novel, after Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Although this is a much later work, the similarities are striking: the contrived plot (we have to believe that two babies, entirely unrelated and one with some African heritage, are so alike that even their father cannot tell them apart), the device of having a male character disguise himself as a woman, the cruel treatment by a boy of his adoptive parents, and so on.
"Pudd'nhead Wilson" is Twain's shortest novel and shows signs of having been pruned. Some characters, -- Rowena, for example -- play a significant part early on, then disappear. Wilson himself plays no part throughout most of the story. My guess is that Twain originally intended a much longer novel, with more incidents and secondary plotlines.
The fingerprint aspects of the story will seem quaint, and often downright inaccurate, to the modern reader, but at the time they must have been quite startling. The technique had not yet been officially adopted by law enforcement. Some of you may remember an episode of "Alias Smith and Jones" in which Hannibal learns about fingerprinting from this book.
A (perhaps the chief) delight of the book is the selection of aphorisms from "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar", appended to each chapter heading. It's a great excuse for Twain to peddle some marvelous quotables. Every reader will choose a favourite; mine is "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He'd sell his own mother, 7 May 2009
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Officer Dibble (Zummerzet) - See all my reviews
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Set in Missouri before the Civil War when slavery was a part of daily life. This is a 'swapping' tale of two near identical babies concentrating on the life of the one who would have been classed as black because he was 'thirty one parts white and only one part nigger'. If you've read The Prince and the Pauper or seen the film Trading Places then you'll get the general idea.

This has a very folksy feel,homespun but with a dark side. It is a very busy novel with very little fat. My usual gripe about novels is that they were in need of some pruning but oddly this book felt as though it may have benefitted from being longer!

Puddnhead is a lawyer sidelined as stupid for a 'kill half a dog' comment early in life but really seems a cipher for the introduction of fingerprinting. Twain's wit sparkles, 'The Society of Free-Thinkers has been in existence four years and already has two members'. However the slave dialogue may be authentic but is near unintelligible to a UK ear.

Wilson's 'Calendar' sayings preface each chapter and they are good fun. Are these the origins of the phrases 'to sell your own mother', 'sold down the river' and 'Americans..don't do irony'? Despite the wit this is quite a grim story.

On reflection this book deserves a longer review than is possible here. It's flawed ,hence three stars, but have a look if you want a shortish intro to Mark Twain and a feel for the routine but corrosive pre-War Deep South.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Puddnhead, 17 Feb. 2012
Ranks with Our Mutual Friend(Dickens)and Un Nos Ola Leuad(Cymraeg)as one of the greatest books I have read in any language
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 6 Nov. 2014
Fantastic !
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Pudd'nhead Wilson (Webster's Spanish Thesaurus Edition)
Pudd'nhead Wilson (Webster's Spanish Thesaurus Edition) by Icon Reference (Paperback - 5 Feb. 2006)
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