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on 27 July 2011
The man who was Thursday is a classic thriller and adventure that captivates from the very first page. An english gentleman's word and honour is his bond and this mantra is woven masterfully as the central principle throughout the story. The classic protagonist, Syme's moral fibre is challenged in ways that seem largely lost in modern culture yet mercifully familiar. For that reason the deceptively simple strength and sense of honour throughout this book leaves the reader with a sense of pride in the human condition.

Thoroughly recommended. Just buy it
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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.

But the story isn't pedantic or boring; Chesterton keeps things lively by having his characters act like real people, rather than mouthpieces. From Symes to the Colonel to the mysterious Sunday himself, they all have a sort of friendly, energetic quality. "We're all spies! Come and have a drink!" one of the characters announces cheerfully near the end.

And of course, once the madcap police investigations are finished, there's still a mystery. Who is Sunday? What are his goals? And for that matter, WHAT is Sunday -- genius, force of nature, villain or god? The answer is a bit of a surprise, and as a reflection of Chesterton's beliefs, it's a delicate, intelligent piece of work.

"The Man Who Was Thursday" is a wacky little satire that will both amuse and educate you. Not bad for a book often subtitled "A Nightmare."
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on 13 March 2014
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 Anarchists who wish to tear down society as we know it. By a deliberate series of events Syme finds himself on the prestigious and mysterious committee of this "cult" and is given the name Thursday (all members of the council are named after the days of the week). From here on Syme uncovers a number oddities in his investigation and the plot becomes more and more surreal.

I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons;

1) The writing style. Its right up my street. Reminds me particularly of the English translations of the works of Mikhail Bulgakov - filled with bristling moustaches, wild eyes and flared nostrils. What I particularly enjoy and appreciate that even though this was penned in 1908 it feels much more modern.

2) A fast pace. This book is only 174 pages long and takes you on a wild adventure through London and across the channel to France. The characters don't stop moving once and utilise a delightful array of transportation modes that will give a smart nod to Around the World in eighty days.

3) George Syme spends most of the novel half-cut, adding a wonderfully ridiculous air to the way he perceives the wild occurances he stumbles upon during his investigation/adventure.

4) The Christian allegories. He doesn't bother trying to be subtle and once you realise what's going on with the storyline you'll discover the entire book is littered with them and you feel embarrassed for not noticing them from the get-go.

For all my enjoyment of the book (I devoured it in 2 days!) I can't give it 5 stars for this simple reason: I have no idea what the plot was. It became so surreal that by the time you got to the epic reveal (a reveal I had guessed quite quickly which is sad) I could not for the life of me work out why their "leader" had pitted them against each other in this farcical story. I really loved the idea (this bit I didn't guess) that they were angels that represented the different creations on the days of the week in the Christian Bible but didn't understand what their purpose was. And then to throw Satan in at the end who asked them simply "have you ever suffered like me" really confused me.

To add to this I though it was an unnecessary move to pretend this was all a fanciful nightmare that Syme had had while awake and still conversing with Gregory (the poet he meets at the start). This added nothing to the narrative and instead made it look like that awful nightmare scene from Dallas.

Perhaps it was all a bit too "philosophical" for my coconut. I enjoyed it I just wasn't convinced of the point of it.
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on 28 February 2009
The quote by Kingsley Amis on the front of this Penguin Red Fiction book states that The Man Who Was Thursday was "The most thrilling book I have ever read". Poor Kingsley, he clearly didn't read many books! It's not that this book on bluff and double-bluff is not highly original; it is. It's just that the story all seems a bit tongue in cheek to me - a light and clever comedy exercise rather than a gripping and heartstopping adventure read.
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on 19 December 2010
This book is beautifully written and thought out. It is a tale full of suspense and menace as it progresses. It all could so easily happen that you read with bated breath right up to the very end.I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 16 July 2013
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 evil (or is he?)
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on 4 June 2013
This was a very interesting book and gave the reader plenty to think about. I was not very keen on the size of it I would have preferred the normal sizing. Cheers Sheila
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on 21 November 2007
I read this slim book across two European flights. It's entertaining and there were at least three twists that were enjoyable.
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on 12 December 2010
Not just a superb thriller, it's also one of the funniest books I've ever read - some of it is pure Python.

Why this classic book has never been made as a film, or a classy BBC costume drama is beyond me.

Read it - and then, for more Chesterton craziness, read "The Club Of Queer Trades".
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on 14 January 2012
The Man Who Was Thursday seems to be the literary equivalent of Marmite: if you like it, you'll really like it; if you don't, you'll find the enthusiasm incomprehensible.

Kingsley Amis called it "The most thrilling book I have ever read". The critic John Carey included it in his roll call of the fifty most enjoyable books of the twentieth century.

Clive James, on the other hand, while generally enthusiastic about Chesterton, describes The Man Who Was Thursday as "dreadfully windy".

The book starts as a more or less realistic thriller, set in Edwardian London, but it soon becomes clear that it is a Christian allegory. Chesterton abandons any attempt at realism or plausibility; the characters become puppets in his toy theatre show. Also, the elaborate plot becomes predictable long before it has been worked out to its conclusion.

I wanted to like the book, and the first third held my attention, but by the end I was with Clive. It's so windy you can hardly stand up.
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