Thursday, 17 December 2015

the incredulity of father brown

On Saturday 5 December I finished reading The Incredulity of Father Brown by GK Chesterton.

I picked it up (a green Penguin edition from 1970; it's the third collection of Father Brown stories, published 1926) a couple of weeks before secondhand in the Kennington Bookshop, opposite the old Interserve office on Kennington Road, which since I last went past had changed from a new book shop to a cafe with secondhand books on the shelves around the side, which I guess could work pretty well as a combined income stream. I guess it had happened quite recently, as the signage/branding wasn't very clear; I nearly didn't go in because I thought it was just a cafe. Ah, I see from this review that it's Vanilla Black Coffee & Books - and from which I see that there's a downstairs, which I didn't notice at all.

Anyway, the book. As I mentioned previously, I was going back to Father Brown after reading and enjoying Orthodoxy, though I hadn't enjoyed Father Brown stories I'd read long ago. The secret, I see, is not to read them as detective stories, but as reflections on aspects of human morality and spirituality. I enjoyed them a good deal better at that level. I recognised the things I didn't like from before as primarily Father Brown's ridiculously miraculous crime-solving skills, and plots which often strayed too far into the far-fetched and fanciful. But they were well-written, and I'll read more, now that I understand how I should read them. (I'm not claiming that's how everyone else should read them.)

First line: There was a brief period during which Father Brown enjoyed, or rather did not enjoy, something like fame.
(Last line deliberately omitted.)

The cover is one of those which looks like a TV tie-in (which in general I deplore), but in fact is a specially-taken photo, which in some ways makes it worse. This is not an edition which will be cherished for its design, I feel, but the state of the book suggests it has journeyed through the hands of a number of readers (and I have launched it back onto that journey via charity shop). The fact that it's a 'green Penguin' only shown on the front by the penguin's background (the spine, as you can just about see, is dressed appropriately). It's a 1970 edition, with no design credit but a photo credit to Alan Spain.

Later PS: in response to my posting of a link to this on Facebook, Danica said this: 'I think I also read the Father Brown stories more for certain depictions of atmosphere (God of the Gongs) or character (the American journalist in The Strange Crime of John Boulnois, for example) than for detective plot itself. Nice that you love them a little more than before!'

Another later PS: in a response to someone's comment on Instagram, I said 'I didn't appreciate FB stories till I read some of GKC's non-fiction, and started to read them as explorations of morality rather than detective stories...'.

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