Whilst in hospital after the birth of Melian, I had a chance to read “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by G K Chesterton. Chesterton is another of those authors who I was embarrassed that I had never read, especially considering that he is the source of one of my favourite lines (The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried).
I acquired The Man Who Knew Too Much on my Kindle for the princely sum of nothing. I am very glad I did.
The structure of the book is a series of short stories, primarily about the eponymous Man Who Knew Too Much. Each story is essentially a whodunnit, about a death, and through each death we come to learn more about the sort of world our main protagonist inhabits. My own view is that, as the stories went by, that this world seems a curiously empty one – as if knowledge had drained life of its colour. Yet, by the end of it I also felt it was a series about redemption. There is also a theme through the stories of the developing friendship between our knowledgeable protagonist and an up and coming political journalist. Two individuals that on the face of it are opposites – not least because one “knows” and the journalist, in so many ways, is ignorance and innocent. By the end of it, the journalist is no longer as ignorant, and one thinks probably no longer innocent as well. I do not want to go into too much more detail however, so as not to spoil it in case by some amazing chance I inspire someone to pick it up.
The stories are beautifully written, with the loving care of a real wordsmith. Just for the language alone I can recommend them – and it is my understanding this is far from Chesterton’s most accomplished work.
I am most definitely going ot read more Chesterton – and indeed I have downloaded onto my Kindle the most wonderfully entitled “Napoleon of Notting Hill”.