Books That Haunt: The Man Who Was Thursday

Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series.

If there was ever a more intriguing book title than G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, I have yet to find it. With the exception of Friday in Robinson Crusoe and Joe Friday in Dragnet, I don’t even recall any other characters named for the days of the week, much less titles. In Chesterton’s case, the days of the week are code names for members of the Central Anarchist Council, a kind of terrorist group of the day. Gabriel Syme is recruited to infiltrate the Anarchist Council by taking the place of Thursday, which has been recently vacated. The Council is lead by Sunday, an enormous, mysterious figure who is so large that the reader, much less Syme has a difficult time seeing all of his enormity at one time.

This is the type of book in which if I said more about the plot, I’d be giving too much away. I will say, however, that Chesterton’s prose in this book can be described as sharp, witty, pithy, and and full of irony and sarcasm. The story itself both exciting and profound.

The reason I find this book “haunting” (Chesterton himself labeled it “A Nightmare”) is that its theological and philosophical implications will stay with the reader for a long time to come. Chesteron explores the issues of divine sovereignty and the problem of evil in a fun way that leaves the reader breathless and bemused—all the while evoking laughter. I approached The Man Who Was Thursday as if it were a mere foxhole, yet I found myself at the end standing over a vast cliff. The depth of the book sneaks up on the reader in a surprising way.

I realize that this is a pretty vague review, but this is the kind of novel one just needs to read without knowing too much about it. Perhaps now your appetite is whet for a haunting…