I decided for this installment of my exploration of the classics to go to C.K. Chesterton. A Meetup Group (which I don’t plan to attend) broadcast its intention to discuss The Man Who Was Thursday. Why not moi? Glad in a way to avoid the Father Brown stories of PBS fame, I launched. A few pages in, I was saying, more or less, what the hell is this? A fantasy? A political/religious treatise? A mystery thriller? Some sort of other hybrid? Having finished, I still can’t answer.
Our protagonist Syme, an anti-anarchist (we’d call them terrorists today) poet, persuaded by the police to infiltrate the country’s leading anarchist organization and squelch an assassination plot. Syme goes literally underground, meets his co-conspirators, each of whom is a member of the council of seven and named after a day of the week. The Thursday slot is vacant, Syme talks his way into it, and off we go.
We’re treated to a chase that carries us to Normandy, then back across the channel for a pursuit of an elephant, then a balloon, then a grand ball to cap off the last chapter. Who presides over the party and why and what happens to Syme along the way and at the fete makes for exciting, surprising, and sometimes mystifying reading. In the end, however, this is a profoundly Christian novel that Chesterton intends to carry a substantial message on the nature of good and evil. A highly original read a mile or more down the road from kindly Father Brown.