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3.9 out of 5 stars34
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 July 2013
This book is both intelligent and interesting. The Father Brown stories are better known but this is, perhaps, a more intricate yarn. Readers who enjoy this book shoud try some of his more philosophical books and poetry; they will be surprised.
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on 27 August 2015

‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ is a truly extraordinary novel and one that is exceedingly tricky to review. To avoid any glaring spoilers, this critique is deliberately vague. Fellow reviewers have veered between adoration and overwhelming disappointment. As I will seek to evidence, both viewpoints are understandable. However, for its ability to continually enthral and intrigue the reader ‘Thursday’ takes some beating, albeit the finale is more likely to provoke head-scratching than fist-pumping.

In terms of assessing the story, it is perhaps most appropriate to consider it as three separate acts. The opening third of ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ reads like a classic spy thriller in the style of John Buchan’s ‘Greenmantle’. At the start of the tale, we hear how newly-appointed secret policeman, Gabriel Syme infiltrates a gang of anarchists and finds himself elected onto their clandestine council as one of seven architects of destruction. These chapters are taut and tense and offer a fascinating glimpse of political views and actions in the pre-Russian revolution era.

Things then turn rather peculiar as it emerges that many of the remaining six members of the council are not what they seem to be. Indeed, Syme is increasingly unsure of whether he is surrounded by allies or enemies. Amidst the revelations, we are treated to one of the book’s most exciting passages as our leading man is impossibly pursued across London by the lame and decrepit Professor De Worms. There is something wonderfully sinister about the stalking and the fact that De Worms appears time-after-time with a trademark glass of milk in countless drinking establishments. At this point, I found myself wondering why Hitchcock did not take a stab at ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’.

By the time we get to chapter 11 of 15 (The Criminals Chase The Police) Hitch’s abstinence becomes obvious, for previous peculiarities morph into downright zaniness. Indeed, the story’s finale reads like an adult’s version of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ with events becoming more surreal and philosophical by the page.

How the individual reader will respond to such an unpredictable narrative is clearly difficult to predict. For myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride despite feeling a little underwhelmed by the outcome. For those expecting another ‘Riddle of the Sands’, it might be best to leave ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ alone. However, for those who like a cracking tale of the unexpected, it is well worth a read. Perhaps the most apt comparison I can make is that ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ is like having a wonderful journey to a holiday destination that you might not want to return to again. Indeed, whilst it consistently whets the appetite, it does not necessarily leave the reader Thursday for more!

Barty’s Score: 8.5 / 10
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on 24 April 2013
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started reading this, but it definitely wasn't what I got! This is an extremely well-written, very witty, with endless neat turns of phrases and observations, tale of what are essentially a group of terrorists who aim to "destroy God" and reduce mankind to anarchy. The terrorists are all named after days of the week with the terrible Sunday being the avenging angel who oversees all of the other weekday's activities. There are more twists and turns than a Victorian London street and nothing is ever quite what you expect in the story. This was published in 1905 but is surprisingly still very relevant today. In this age where we are all fearing where the next extremist suicide bomber is going to strike with his own ideas of destroying the western version of God, Sunday's dreadful intention to annihilate mankind does not seem all that far-fetched. The only difference is that instead of FBI car chases, and shootouts, what we have are chases conducted by men in top hats and tails with the aid of hansom cabs, hot air balloons stolen from the Great Exhibition and, notably a stolen elephant from the zoological gardens. The weapon of choice seems to be a duelling sword although some pistols do get drawn. This is a great book and it's FREE to download on Kindle - can't go wrong.
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on 28 January 2014
I love Chesterton's unique ability to see reality in paradox, and with his normal beautiful use of language. An intriguing book.
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on 22 March 2014
This book wasn't anything like I expected it to be. A weird nightmare story. Not my favourite Chesterton. The Father Brown Stories, and The Everlasting Man are far better!
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on 12 October 2012
A friend asked me to read this as she wasn't sure about her own response! It is certainly not a book you can easily compare with any other and for that reason creates an uneasy and intriguing sense of not being sure where we are. I found the start curiously arresting and engaging and was sustained by Chesterton's quirky and lively style throughout. But eventually there was a kind of predictability and this took away that earlier charm of the unknown. And for me the final denouement had the icky charm of a religious tract, redeemed only by some surrealism of variable conviction. By the end it felt like sub-CS Lewis allegory of an over effortful and contrived kind. The whole was less than the sum of its often excellent parts. Yet I would not have missed those parts and would recommend them to others who might like a bumpy ride through varied scenery to a rather disappointing final destination.
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on 14 September 2015
After reading the kindle version, I accidentally bought a paperback copy, from one of those mystery book sales, where the book is wrapped in paper with only a brief description. The description called it "a metaphysical thriller", and I thought it sounded perfect for me. When I unwrapped it and found I had only recently read it, I didn't even mind. The book is perfect for me, and perfectly described as a metaphysical thriller, and well worth keeping a paperback copy.
This book is wonderful on so many levels.
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on 2 February 2015
This was my first exposure to G K Chesterton. I started loving it just because it was so wonderfully written. Then I began to get all smug and blahse - I'll skip read the rest because I've worked out what will happen; or so I thought! I realised it was full of religious and spiritual allegory just in time to enjoy the challenge of the rest of the story and to my mind. I've got to read this again before I can even begin to decipher the half of it. I might need the help of some of you out there, to be honest!! Brilliant!
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on 19 May 2013
This is an engaging little book but ultimately not that satisfying in its own right as a story. The clue is in the subtitle, and it is reminiscent in some ways of Roberto Bolaño’s more dream-like writing and has interesting resonances with today’s unhappy phenomenon of the suicidal terrorist, but the ending is unsatisfactory. But it was written long before Dali, Magritte and Buñuel, let alone Bolaño, and should perhaps be viewed as a forerunner of surrealism and the type of Pythonesque humour that goes with it.
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on 1 December 2012
The years have removed a single star from this book, much copied by others in the interim and slightly dated - yet so influential as to be a must read for fans of the crime, detective and spy genres. Chesterton has such a smooth prose style that he is always a joy, so dig in and give yourself a reading treat!
i don't do spoilers and tghis book is all about the plot, so this is where i stop... except to stasy that hather brown remaims his greatest creation and those stories are 5-star pure and simple.
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