Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Innocence Of Father Brown

I finished reading The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton recently and I liked it so much I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about it. I really think that Chesterton is a wonderful writer and he has a way of expressing ideas with startling clarity.

All of the stories in this book include elements of suspense and surprise that are so important in a great detective story. The plots are complex and well-organized. There is the joy of feeling smart when you finally do crack the code and solve the mystery. Even if it isn't until the end of the story, you still feel like a very accomplished detective. In fact, you feel like you solved the mystery yourself, much of the time.

I think that the greatest thing about the book is that it is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Chesterton has created an intriguing story but has also managed to weave much deeper ideas into the book. Through the conversation of Father Brown, the sweet little English priest, Chesterton manages to state many of his own beliefs. Yet, somehow, he says them in such a way that the reader does not feel at all as though he is "preaching to them." Indeed, how can they? For the author rarely states his own opinions with the omnipresent privilege he possesses, but prefers to let his star character influence the reader of each story. This is what I consider to be very good writing.

I cannot say that I agree with everything that Chesterton says - indeed, I differ with him on many points- but somehow, in this book, those differences don't really matter. Winston Churchill says of history, "Nevertheless, the broad story holds for it was founded on a true and dominating principle." I believe that the same is true of these stories. The truth behind the book is so powerful that it makes a fascinating read.

Here are some lines I particularly like:

"Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a noticeboard, 'Thou shalt not steal.' "

One of the most interesting stories in the book is The Eye Of Apollo. At the beginning of the story, Father Brown asks his friend Flambeau about the new "Religion Of Apollo."

"What on earth is that," asked Father Brown, and stood still."

"Oh, a new religion," said Flambeau, laughing: "one of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any....It claims, of course, that it can cure all physical diseases."

"Can it cure the one spiritual disease?" asked Father Brown, with a serious curiosity.

"And what is the one spiritual disease?" asked Flambeau, smiling.

"Oh, thinking one is quite well," said his friend.

I sincerely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are more than just mere mysteries.

Seize The Day!


Aldawen said...

This is one of those books that has been on my reading list for months. It was good to read your thoughts on it!!

Chesterton and I disagree on very few points. ;-)

Let's see, what have I been reading lately? I finished The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. I enjoyed it for the most part. I didn't like it as much as Les Mis, though. I've also been going through some more Shakespeare. There are quite a few other things, but I'll spare you my entire list. ;-)

Have you ever read Victor Hugo?

Anya said...

Wow... I read a lot of the Father Brown stories quite a while ago, but I need to read them again! (I am so busy right now.)

Thanks for the review. I love characters who are lovable -- like Father Brown. :)

anya said...

Thanks, I like the layout that I have now, too. :)

I LOVE that Jars of Clay song -- and the entire cd!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Peter said...

Strongjoy, you do have a inner gift of seeing beyond'. I term this a great spiritual energy, and passion. You have a vibrant essence with sharing words, vision, and the true spirit of 'life'- hope' beyond the dull pain' we mostly all struggle with... and we do forget. There is so much more than what we see in our own 'limited' earthly life sight.

I have been inspired your Blog, and thank you for the energy that makes it possible!

Well done' - God Bless your journey - Peter

StrongJoy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Peter. I'm glad you are inspired.